Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Typing Skills

I remember the days of a a a a progressing to as as as as so here's another post worthy of re-blogging.  This one features several tools for improving typing including some fun games. After all, if our learners are word-processing on a regular basis, they really could do with some resources to help them with their typing speed and accuracy, right?

View the post here.

Monday, 30 January 2012

The Readability Test Tool

The Readability Test Tool is a handy little Bookmarklet that can be led to your bookmarks toolbar. It indicates the youngest age group that would find a webpage easy to read, along with:

  • Flesch Kincaid Reading Ease
  • Flesch Kincaid Grade Level
  • Gunning Fog Score
  • Coleman Liau Index
  • Automated Readability Index (ARI)
It is also possible to cut & paste text onto the page to test the readability.

  • Use when planning to test the accessibility for learners, especially for those with reading-related special educational needs
  • Writers could use the tool to check the suitability of their writing, particularly when writing for younger audiences

Obooko - Free Books!

Obooko is an award-winning site for downloading free books in a wide range of genres spanning fiction and non-fiction. All books are copy-free and various formats are available for e-readers including pdf, mobi and ePub. Anyone is free to upload their books so there is a huge number, constantly growing.


  • Learners can access many useful books to supplement their studies from literary analyses to historical guides and insights from Buddhism to Nostradamus
  • Ambitious writers can produce and submit their own books; alternatively groups could collaborate to produce a collection of shorter writings for a real audience

Jellycam Stop-Motion Maker

Jellycam is a simple program that allows you to make stop-motion animations quickly and easily. The creator says it is a work in progress so there are no fancy effects or anything available yet, but it seems these are in the pipeline. Have a look at the video below which gives a quick intro to the program.


  • Another tool that can be used for digital storytelling, whether related to literature, history, social studies or any other subject
  • Learners and teachers can use this type of media to explain abstract concepts which are more easily understood with objects, pictures, etc rather than just text
  • Lots of examples from a (paid) software producer here to inspire your learners in getting started
You might also be interested in SAMAnimation (free version) or Scratch for creating interactive animations. 


Oolone is a search engine that provides results as a preview of the pages it finds. It gives a very clear shot of each page with a title at the top. Below are the results of a search for 'persuasive language' so you can judge the results for yourself. If you hover your mouse over any of the screenshots on Oolone, it will enlarge them so you can even read the text before deciding if it is worth clicking through. Wanring: unlike some other search engines, it won't make a guess at what you might mean with misspellings, so make sure you've typed what you want to find accurately. 

The visual presentation of results, with descriptions, can speed up locating the type of information you are looking for as you don't have to open each result to see what it contains; great for any type of research, project work and good even for looking up definitions of words.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Teaching Research Skills

A recent post on the TES forum asked about how best to teach research skills, so I em...researched online and found the following:

Teach-nology provides this page on which resources are best for researching particular topics. It could easily be adapted to be more relevant to your learners' cultural situation.

The All about Explorers site contains fictional biographies with differentiated lesson plans to lead learners to an appreciation of why being discerning about Internet resources is so important.
Bibliobouts is an online game that teachers can customise for assignments.

Students are rewarded for their research skills and their ability to differentiate between good and bad material. To play, they find sources, which are judged by their peers for relevance and credibility, and then measure the worth of sources their classmates find. They gain more points the more sources they assess accurately and the better their own sources are judged.

Bibliobouts works with Zotero which is a free tool for collecting and citing sources. It works from your browser and is an interesting alternative to other bibliography tools.

The British Library has a section dedicated to creative research with guidance for learner, teachers and a great set of links to even more helpful websites.

The 50-word assignment idea from Charles L Cohen of Wisconsin University is designed to improve writing, as well as research, skills. Following the links to the examples and explanations clarifies how it works and can be adapted for high-school groups.

Update (03.02.11): The Learning Network has just published a lesson plan on the reliability of sources which may also be of interest. Click here.

As always, feel free to add your own resources and reviews in the comments box below.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

The Printliminator - Print only what you need!

The Printliminator BETA

The Printliminator is a bookmarklet with some simple tools you can use to makes websites print better. One click to activate, and then click to remove elements from the page, remove graphics, and apply better print styling. Here is the bookmarklet:
Printliminator < drag to your bookmarks bar

Quick Video Demo


By Chris Coyier and Devon Govett. Icons by Function. Print stylesheet based on Hartija.


Explania is exactly what the logo claims - a collection of animated explanations on a range of topics. The videos can be viewed without registration and embedded by anyone on any site. Have a look at the example below and if you like what you see, browse the site for more useful media for teaching Sport, Ecology, Health, Economics (Money) or ICT (Technology).

  • Use the videos to liven up delivery of content
  • Learners could watch different videos in groups and then peer teach to change the interaction away from being teacher-focused
  • Use the animations as models for learners to create their own for future/younger year groups
  • Embed the videos on your shared online learning platform for revision purposes

Digital Storytelling Kit

This free digital storytelling kit from tech4learning.com is available for immediate download and includes articles, examples and lesson plans. The articles are surprisingly convincing in describing how digital storytelling can really improve narratives. As mentioned, lesson plans are provided but there are lots more ideas to be inspired if you take the time to read through the (not very long) articles. The whole kit opens a world of possibilities across the curriculum so certainly worth the 2 minutes it takes to get the materials.

You might also like to have a look at the document below compiled by Richard Byrne of the excellent Freeteach4teachers.com.

10 Digital Storytelling Projects

Circus Physics

"The Big Apple Circus' jugglers, clowns and high-flying acrobats provide an entertaining and engaging way to introduce basic physics concepts to high school students. Eight videos feature footage from the series and interviews with the performers to illustrate the laws of physics at work. For deeper exploration, each video has  a corresponding Study Guide for students and an Activity Guide for teachers, as well as raw video clips of performances which can be used for analysis in the classroom."

Watch Circus Physics: Projectile Motion on PBS. See more from Circus.


  • Engage learners with a different take on Physics and use the 'Questions to Consider' to focus learners' attention followed by the 'Your Turn' activities to assess learning
  • Learners can use the accompanying links at the bottom of the page to 'find out more'

Free Math Help

Free Math Help is a great place for those struggling with Math who either can't or won't get help from the usual sources. Not only are there are range of explanations but at any given time the live chatbox function allows learners to interact with others to get help. If nobody's available, they can always head over to the discussion forums and leave a message. Live chat requires sign-up but otherwise membership is not a requirement to access the site.


  • Learners can use this site as an additional source of help with their Math issues; particularly useful for promoting learner independence
  • You could assign particular Math concepts to individuals, groups or pairs; they then access the site to learn about the problem before peer-teaching their classmates
  • If you work in time to your lessons to allow learners to work on their personal Math targets, this site would be useful for supporting their learning so they don't need to depend on the teacher being available when they run into difficulties

Math Rap - PEMDAS

A rap video from Rhyme n Learn that will help learners get the PEMDAS acronym into their heads. A few videos on Youtube of groups performing this so I guess it must be catchy!

  • Challenge learners to learn and perform the rap themselves.
  • Use it as a model for learners creating their own raps for difficult-to-remember concepts.
  • Check out Rhyme n Learn's Youtube page for more raps on Maths & Science.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Face Games

Senteacher.org offers a range of resources for teaching various special needs learners, and this is possibly one of the most useful. It's a free download (available for Mac, PC or Linux) with various activities for learners to identify facial expressions.

From the site:

A collection of games concerned with faces, emotions and face reading which is a follow-up to the now rather aged Rubberface Game. All activities are randomised to ensure repeatability.

Games at various levels of difficulty are:
  • Memory Pairs
  • Aging Face Timeline Game
  • Name the Mood Games
  • Odd Face Out Game

The faces are realistic computer generations which are intended to accurately represent a small cross-section of expressions, ethnicities and the aging process. 

The activities are primarily intended for children and young people with autistic spectrum disorders who have difficulty face reading. 

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Apps in Education

In their own words:

"One of the hardest thing with using the iPad in the classroom is finding the time to go through all of the apps in the iTunes Store listed under the education banner. We have started to list some of the apps we've found under each of the Key Learning Areas."

Click here to view the list by subject.