Monday, 27 February 2012

Again...but slower puts Wikipedia and Simple Wikipedia side-by-side so you can compare the results from each. If used for differentiation where the (EAL?) learners are making the choice, rather than the teacher, it has great value. Also, as much of Wikipedia has not yet been simplified (information on my hometown for example) there are opportunities for learners to create their own entries which will then be accessed by the rest of the world.


Unless you've been living under a rock, you've heard of Wikipedia and I've already blogged about  Simple Wikipedia though you might have missed it if not signed up for updates. Great for most of us using English as the medium of instruction, but now MFL teachers can join in too with Vikidia, currently available in Spanish and French. Designed particularly for younger learners from around 8-13, Vikidia can be used as an information resource as well as edited and contributed to as per Wikipedia. Give your learners an accesible info store as well as a real audience.

Switcheroo Zoo

Switcheroo Zoo is bound to be a hit with your young learners, but I'm already thinking up ways to use it with my teens. The site contains lots of activities related to animals and their habitats. It's a mine of useful information, but the fun starts in the 'Switch Zoo' where it's possible to create new animals from the composite parts of existing ones. Here's a picture of my 3-minute creation: Bengal Gizard!

  • Learners can mix up their own animals and then use the animal facts to write profiles for their creations - let their imaginations soar as they practise their writing skills
  • Build a habitat most suitable for the animals met on the site
  • Let learners take a guided tour to find out more about the animal kingdom
  • Use as part of a larger project where learners create a world using Terragen and then visit this site to populate their planets


I decided to go ahead and publish this post so you could explore the resource yourself, but once I've had a bit more of a play with the software, I'll update it with more details and ideas. In the meantime, feel free to add your own via the Comments section below of course.

This is hardly a click-and-go type resource but because of its potential, I just have to share it with you. Tim Rylands presented this at the ASB Unplugged conference in Mumbai last week and it was simply mind-blowing. The free software can be downloaded from here and the rest is up to your imagination and creativity as you create your own landscapes on a planet of your choice. While it might be time-consuming, just think of the possibilities!

I can hardly begin to list all the uses Terragen could have for extended project work or PBL, but here's a few to kick things off. In my ideal world, I'd use it for a long-term cross-curricular project with various groups coming back to the created world through the year for various learning activities. Anyway, individual subject teachers could create a world and then fill it with anything relevant. For example:
  • Historians could produce areas which are portals to the past and use the backdrops as green screens for recording events
  • Geography - countless ways to interact with landforms and other geographical features before exploring the impact that the peoples you decide to populate the planet with; combine with Google Sketchup for even more
  • Art - use your eyes and imagination!
  • English / Language Arts - lots of opportunities for descriptive and narrative writing; if non-fiction's your goal, is there anything in the world that couldn't be linked to an entire planet?

Visuwords, Lexipedia & Wordnik: Dictionary Alternatives

Visuwords has been around for a while and I used to use it extensively so I was very happy to be reminded of its existence at the ASB Unplugged conference last week. With all the benefits of a dictionary and thesaurus rolled into one, Visuwords will appeal to those who prefer to see connections as a concrete pattern. Try it out - there's no sign up so it takes less then 10 seconds to see what it can do. Click here.

Lexipedia offers another word-defining visual of a similar nature. The benefit of this one is you can choose the word class by ticking various options such as synonym, noun, adverb etc. And the greatest is bonus for MFL - you can search for words in not only English, but also Spanish, German, French, Dutch and Italian. Click here.

Should you be looking for something a little different, Wordnik might be of more interest to you. Entering a word into this search engine will offer a variety of different definitions from different sources and alongside these appear many examples of the word in use - very handy for those who get the meaning but not grammatical usage. Add in the usual synonyms, antonyms and even a 'reverse dictionary' which shows you definitions containing your search term, and you're almost there...but not quite. On top of all this, you can hear pronunciations from at least 2 dictionaries as well as find out your word's Scrabble score - now that's comprehensive! Click here.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

ASB Unplugged 2012

Today's the last day of the incredibly inspirational conference - ASB Unplugged. It's been an amazing few days so expect lots of great resources from leading learners, powerful presenters and techie teachers over the next couple of weeks.
I've seen old tools used in new ways, new tools to replace old ways and everything geared toward making learners love learning and beg for more. Just great!

"It's not the technology; it's what comes from it."
-Tim Rylands, ASB Unplugged 2012

Friday, 24 February 2012

TodaysMeet Backchannel

Sometimes it does take a bit of time for things to filter through, no matter how many times I read them on the numerous blogs I subscribe to. Backchanneling tools definitely come under this category. If it's news to you here's an overview from TodaysMeet:

What finally convinced me to sit up and take notice of this resource was witnessing its use in an inspiring lesson where learners were watching a film and using TodaysMeet to express their thoughts and ask and respond to queries. The teacher was following the stream and was able to feed in comments to alert them to important upcoming sections that they should pay particular attention to or things to listen/watch out for. 
TodaysMeet was the tool of choice, and although there are alternatives (for example Twitter or Google Moderator could be used in a similar way) it's the very simple, no-signup, streamlined interface that lends its appeal. Furthermore, transcripts of the backchannel can be saved as a pdf for future reference. 
Each new topic is assigned a unique url and the backchannel remains open for up to a year.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

FAS Immune Attack

A free game to download and install, sadly only available for PC users at the moment. Immune Attack takes the concept of infection and teaches it in a highly engaging way. It's a bit tricky to navigate the nanobot but users will learn a lot about the immune system as they master the controls.

"You must navigate a nanobot through a 3D environment of blood vessels and connective tissue in an attempt to save an ailing patient by retraining her non-functional immune cells.  Along the way, you will learn about the biological processes that enable macrophages and neutrophils – white blood cells – to detect and fight infections."

Google Maths?

Math teachers. Did you know that Google will display graphs for formulas entered to its search engine? Well, it does! This post from the official blog of Google Search shows you how.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Draw a Stickman

Draw a Stickman is just good fun! You start by drawing a stickman who then undergoes a range of trials and tribulations with the help of your doodles. Much more fun to do than explain, so click through here and check it out. (NB Sequels are coming!)

  • Use the story itself to prompt creative writing
  • Learners could storyboard, film or write sequels or expanded narratives on particular episodes of the animation
Like it? Want more of an 'Art' focus? You might also be interested in this Flipbook site: click here.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Simple Booklet

Simple Booklet offers a very straightforward way of publishing a range of formats from reports to newsletters, portfolios to presentations and more. What's worth blogging about is the incredibly clean-lined and intuitive interface. It may not have the whistles and bells of (for example) Prezi, but you can see how quick and easy it is to use without the distraction of lots of features.

  • Learners can publish any written work (stories, explanations, presentations etc.) and then embed it anywhere they like from blogs to websites to wikis to social networks...
  • The published booklet is tablet-friendly so it can be accessed from laptops, PCs and 'pads' - even younger learners will be able to use the interface

Monday, 6 February 2012

Getting Organised

Evernote is a popular tool that allows people to create, edit and share notebooks with text, audio, video and other media. I've been using it for a while now and was surprised to find that I hadn't posted about it, so here we are. The fact that it can be accessed with any mobile device makes it a great way to keep things up-to-date. Although I don't use it with learners (yet!), I have found it invaluable as an alternative to Post-it Notes and a great way to organise bookmarks, digital media and other resources from around the web. Have a look at how teachers make use of it here. Fortunately, the helpful team at Evernote has also provided these resources so you can fully explore the applications of Evernote in the classroom.

Trello is another helpful tool that allows a group to organise the various elements of projects by assigning different responsibilities to individuals and then allowing them to update their progress in real time. This video gives a general (not very education orientated) introduction to the functionality but it's easy to see how it can be used for groups to collaborate, perhaps even providing a more modern take on Gantt charts?

Edusim Virtual Worlds

I've never been into 3D virtual worlds; my initial fumblings with Second Life were rather underwhelming (no doubt due to my own impatience in mastering the tools), so when I came across Edusim I didn't have high expectations. However, after watching a couple of the videos on their site and then finding a couple more on Youtube, I began to get excited. Why? Well, the videos show primary kids using the interface with ease and the examples given immediately sparked off ideas of how I'd use this in my own classroom. At the moment, I think primary teachers have the advantage in being able to launch the use of Edusim through a concentrated block of time, but secondary teachers could create cross-curricular collaborative projects to really take this to a whole other level.

Colonise an imaginary world and then fill it with everything from:
  • Libraries holding histories, myths, legends and other texts related to the world (English/Language Arts)
  • Fill the terrain with interesting geological features (Geography)
  • Environmental management systems (Geography, Economics, Maths)
  • Creatures based on life forms studied (Sciences)
  • Galleries showcasing works (paintings, illustrations, film, song) from this other world (Art, Music, Media)
  • Buildings created from Google Sketchup (Art, Design Tech, ICT)
  • Additional villages where they speak other languages (MFL)
The possibilities are as limitless as your learners' imagination!

Polyglot Foreign-Language Books (with translation)

The Polyglot Project is really rather clever. You can choose books from a variety of languages and read them online. Highlighting any of the words or sections immediately translates them into English. It's been set up in such a way that it minimises the break in your reading flow as there's no need to move your eyes to footnotes or navigate to another page.


  • Learners can use the library to access books in your subject area to improve their foreign language skills
  • EAL learners can access the books in English and translate passages into their own language; great if you happen to be studying any of the classics that are already on the site


Tildee is a site that offers everyone a space to share what they know. You can add videos, voice and pictures to create your 'how to' and then share it with anyone by sending the link.

Learners, groups and teachers can create tutorials on many things to demonstrate understanding or provide instruction for others. For example:

  • how to tackle a particular math problem (or anything else that requires 'working out')
  • how to be a great learner
  • how to deconstruct a character from a work of literature
  • how to study effectively
  • how to play a certain sport
  • how to read a map
  • how to prepare for an exam
  • how to understand a work of art

Quality Courses for Free

CosmoLearning is a platform where anyone can access free video lectures from the University of Houston. Subjects are wide-ranging and as diverse as 'Development of the Novel' to 'Darwin's Legacy'. 

You may already have heard of the Khan Academy which is based on the same principle, although the academy focuses on the areas of Math, Science and Humanities. The material on this site is probably more suitable for high school learners although some of it is undoubtedly beyond the level expected in an average school.

Or how about some courses from top-class educators from the likes of Yale, Harvard and Princeton? Academic Earth offers such courses for those who are just looking to touch up their knowledge of a particular area, but also provide (presumably paid) courses for credit from Bachelors to Masters.

All these sites offer high quality materials for anyone to further their knowledge in their area of interest so it's worth browsing to see how you could use them to supplement your own teaching and learning.

Talking Pictures - Voicethread and Yodio

Voicethread has been around for quite a while and has a user-friendly interface. Learners can upload pictures and add voiceover, as well as doodling and other features. I've used it a few times with different groups as an alternative way to present and my learners have given positive feedback on the experience. Now you can also find inspiration on how to make the most of Voicethread from the project library which is organised by subject area. The resulting Voicethreads can be shared, embedded and commented upon. Additionally, there are lots of ideas of how to make the most of it in the presentation below.

(As an alternative, Yodio is another free, easy-to-use service that allows users to upload pictures and then add voice to them. Voice can be uploaded from MP3 files or you can call the (US) number to send your voice straight to your account.)

Friday, 3 February 2012

The Learning Network from NY Times

The Learning Network from this popular newspaper is jam-packed with teaching resources and materials. From lesson plans to discussions, it is worth exploring to see what you can find to enhance teaching and learning in your own context.


  • Sign up to receive weekly lesson plans for your subject area via email; a different learning area each day
  • Access the Lesson Plans categorised by subject area
  • Use the Test Yourself page to improve vocabulary in a quick 3-minute activity
  • Guide your over-13s to express their thoughts on Student Opinion
  • Use the Poetry Pairings to get your learners making links between the creative medium and the world around them
  • Have groups take part in the Reading Club to extend their exposure to non-fiction readings and other media
  • History groups may be interested in following On this Day as a starting point for any lesson
  • The daily News Quiz could be used to encourage the skills of skimming and scanning large quantities of text
  • The Student Crossword page has printables organised by topic
  • In collaboration with SnagLearning, there is also a page of Film Documentaries on various world events

Moglue Interactive Ebooks

If you've ever been interested in creating interactive books, Moglue offers a free program which is accesible by both Mac and Windows users. In their own words:
Moglue provides a platform which enables anyone to quickly and easily create interactive ebooks for platforms such as the iPad, iPhone, iPod touch, Android tablets and Android phones. The content is made once, with an easy to use UI. No programming required.
Many people are interested in using iBooks Author but without a Mac and Lion OS. Moglue offers everyone the chance to create interactive textbooks to be distributed freely or to make a profit. The promo video gives a quick overview of what you can expect.

  • Use Moglue to create personalised textbooks for your teaching groups
  • Learners can produce their own textbooks or story books for peers and younger learners

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Boggle's World / Lantern Fish ESL

"Jobs, Worksheets, and Flashcards for the ESL and TEFL Teacher. The new home for"

This site is packed with outstandingly good resources, many of them cross-curricular. While sometimes it can be difficult to locate the best of what's on offer, taking 10 minutes to wander through and discover what's available definitely turns up some gems. If you've got EAL/ESL learners in your classes and you're struggling for materials, there is plenty on here to help you.

  • The ESL Science section contains a few resources including common language patterns for discussing and writing about scientific exploration
  • Learners can find out about oceans and continents with these flashcards, wordsearches and worksheets
  • The Writer's Workshop will be of use to teachers from a range of subjects and year groups
  • Reported Speech Soccer will help even native speakers perfect their skill of changing direct speech into reported speech
  • A Business section is more geared toward preparing learners for business transactions than theory but very useful for role-play and communicative practice in general
  • And if none of the above floats your boat, the extensive menu of boardgames can be used 'off the peg' or downloaded and customised for your needs