Friday, 29 February 2008

Second Life Teacher Training Videos

A few months ago I did some work on a series of teacher training videos for teachers who want to use Second Life, and I'm glad to say these have now been published on Russell Stannard's Teacher Training Videos website.

The series has more than 30 short clips. The clips start from the very basics of registering and setting up your avatar, through, setting up and adjusting voice, taking snapshots, making movies to basic building.

Russell has made an excellent job editing these into two main groups. You can find the easier ones here at Second Life Part 1 and some of the trickier ones here Second Life Part 2.

Russell has built them into a really handy interface, so that they load quickly and you can skip through the index to the ones you want.

This is the first set of movie tutorials I have created using Camtasia Studio and with voice. As you may know, the ones I create for this blog are always silent with 'call out' texts and are created using BBFlashback.

I've always avoided using audio on my own blog ones as I'm a bit self-conscious about my voice and I've felt that using text makes them easier to understand and keeps the file sizes a bit smaller. Any feedback on this would be very welcome as I'm considering changing over and using voice more.

Anyway. I hope you like the videos and find them useful. There's also a wealth of other useful materials on Russell's site, (as I said in my review of it last year) so be sure to check out the rest of it when you get a minute.



PS: The image above is of my avatar in my Second Life office. Feel free to visit and look around. It's on Edunation Island at:

Thursday, 28 February 2008

Creating multimedia stories

I know that it's easy to be cynical about Microsoft, but every now and then they do produce great things for free! Photo Story 3 is one of those great things, and yes it is free!

Photo Story 3 a piece of free software that you can download to your PC and use to create multimedia photo stories complete with images, transitions, effects, text, background music and your own voice narration.

I know there are a lot of online Web 2.0 ap that do all of this too, but for those of us with slower, unreliable or more expensive connections, it's nice to have a bit of software that can do the job for us without using any bandwidth at all (apart from downloading it of course).

You should be able to download Photo Story 3 from here.
It's a 5 Mb download, so that shouldn't take too long even over a dial up connection.

How to use this with students
You can use it to create multimedia materials for your students, whether is for use in class or to take home for homework. Here's some things you can do:
  • Create some narratives for them to view
  • Create narratives which illustrate grammar points
  • Create a series of pictures and words which illustrate different sounds from the Phonemic alphabet
Having software like this that can produce a professional looking end product can be really motivating for students and really help them to push themselves to produce accurate polished work. Here's some things you can get your students to do:
It's ideal for presenting the results of project work.
  • Get the students to take photographs and upload them to tell their own stories to the class
  • What they do each day
  • What they did at the weekend / on holiday
  • Stories about their family
  • Get some pictures from Flickr and get the students to order them and create a story around them.
What I liked about it
  • It's free
  • Easy to use and quick to learn
  • Really liked some of the filter effects
  • Liked the way you can easily create a wide range of background musics
  • File sizes were quite reasonable and exports pretty easily for a number of different devices
What I wasn't so keen on
  • It's a shame that it's so limited in the the formats that it exports to (mainly different sizes of wmv) , but I guess there are plenty of converters you could use if you wanted to change it for an i-pod or something like that.
  • I also thought that a bit more control over how the text was placed over the images would have been really handy.
  • There's no version for MAC of course, but if you have a MAC you won't need this as you get lots of nice stuff that does all this for you ready installed when you buy it.
Photo Story 3 isn't a revolutionary piece of software by any means, but I'm sure it can be used to really engage your students in some enjoyable learning.

Hope it works for you



Sunday, 24 February 2008

Picture phrases

Phrasr is an interesting new website that allows users to input sentences, phrases or even entire paragraphs and then turn them into illustrated slide shows using Flickr images. All you have to do is type in your phrase and click, you then get an image for each word. If you don't like the image you get then you can change them and when you are ready you just give your work a name and title a click to publish. What you then get is like a slide show of images with words.
Here's an example of what it produces. This one is based on the old expression;

Here's another based on the first verse of a Shakespeare sonnet (130)
Once you have created your picture phrase you can either send it to a friend by email or go to the archive and find it to copy the URL.

If you want to see just how quick and easy it is to create these then

How to use this with students
This is going to revolutionise learning, but I can think of a few nice tasks you could use this for.
  • Get students to illustrate a short poem or haiku.
  • Create some idiom movies to help students remember them.
  • Use the site to make revising / presenting grammatical structures structures a bit more interesting.
  • Get students to write a short story and create an image version of it.
  • Discuss why certain images seem more or less appropriate to illustrate various texts.
What I like about it
  • This is a really simple free site that you can use to quickly create materials
  • Nice variety of images

What I wasn't so keen on
  • It would be nice to have an embed code for these so that you could add your finished sentences to your blog, rather than a hyper link back to the site
  • Be careful some images are not appropriate for younger learners
  • Some people tend to abuse sites like these, so be careful of inappropriate sentences or immature students who tend to play around.
Hope you enjoy this simple tool and find some good uses for it. Drop me a line if you have any others to suggest



Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Prompting reading speeds

This is a really handy little tool which is doing the rounds at the moment. It's called CuePrompter and it's an online Teleprompter.

For those not in the know, a Teleprompter is a tool used by news readers, TV presenters etc to help them remember their lines. They read it from above the camera.

This one is very simple to use and you simply cut and paste your text into the field, choose screen size, text size and colours and click a button and you are off.

Once you have your text up on the screen you can then choose the speed that the text moves at and also do a few interesting things like having the text reverse or having the text as a mirror image!
How to use this with students
This could be really useful to push your students reading speed and gist reading. Many students find it very difficult not to focus on every word of a text and get stuck when words come up that they don't know. With a tool like this, you can literally force them to scan the text and keep moving.

To get the best from this in class you are going to need a data project or an interactive whiteboard (IWB).

Some possible tasks:
  • Paste in a news text and actually get your students to read it as it scrolls. You could repeat and gradually increase the speed.
  • Put students in pairs / groups to read out load the parts of plays or dialogues. With short dialogues you could get them to read through a few times and then play the mirror image and see if they can still remember and follow the dialogue.
  • Play the text through in it's mirrored inversion first and see how much Sts understand (make it a short text though and don't expect too much)
  • With short texts you could try to get students to read the text the write down what they have read. You'll need to re-show the text a number of times if you want them to get every word, or they could just summarise after a couple of times through.
  • Try playing your text through at high speed the first time and get students to try to guess what it's about and then gradually slow down the speed each time so they develop a better understanding.
  • To get students doing some TPR ( Total Physical Response), write a list of instructions and get the students to do them in the order they appear on the prompter. It might also be fun to gradually increase the speed of the text and see if the students can keep up!

If you decide to get students to read out loud from the text then I think it's handy to use texts that were designed to be read aloud such as plays, poems or the text from a news report. You could even get students to produce their own texts or texts for each other.

What I liked about this
  • It's free
  • It's really simple to use
  • You can create materials in seconds
  • It doesn't involve downloading anything or using loads of bandwidth
  • It gives the teacher control of the text
What I wasn't so sure about
  • It doesn't work so well in the Firefox browser, though it's fine in IE
  • It would be useful to be able to save and embed the texts into other pages
  • It gives the teacher control of the text
Hope you find this useful and if you have any other suggestions for tips or activities by all means add a comment below.



Friday, 8 February 2008

Animating vocabulary

I've just been looking at a useful websites called Gifup that enables users to quickly and easily create animated gifs / image sequences like the one below. This seems to me a like a really useful way of revising and teaching vocabulary.

What are the sports?
What are the sports?

This is a gif that I created to revise some sport vocabulary. It took about 3 mins to make using images from Flickr.

Here's a tutorial movie showing how I made it. (1.2Mb swf)

It was very simple and just involved searching around my key topic and selecting a few images. Then a couple of clicks and the site generated my gif and gave me an 'embed code' to add it to the site. (See my previous tutorial to find out how to embed images and video into webpages on your desktop)

How to use this with students
Collect up gifs related to any vocabulary area you want to teach or revise. Embed them in an html page on your desk top and start a collection. Each time you add new ones send the html page to your students. (They will need to have a live connection on their computer to be able to view the gifs)
Ask them to make notes of any words they relate to the images they see.

What I liked about it
  • It's quick and easy and there are lots of images available
  • There are some really nice images
  • It's great that you can embed the gifs into your materials

What I wasn't so sure about
  • There are also some images which may be unsuitable for your students, so this is a resource for teachers to create materials rather than one to let students loose on
  • I'm not sure what the copyright arrangement is with the images they are using
  • Be careful about the speed that you set on your gifs, faster ones can be dangerous if anyone in your class is epileptic

On the whole Gifup isn't going to revolutionise your teaching, but it is a useful little tool that you can use to enhance thee teaching process. Please leave a comment if you have any other suggestions for how to use this.

Hope you enjoy it.


Thursday, 7 February 2008

Multimedia wordsearch

This is a really nice tool that I have just discovered. It's called PhotoSoup and it generates wordsearch activities based on any topic in just seconds.

It's very simple and works on images from flickr. You simply type in your topic and the site automatically generates a word grid and image clues. You then have 90 seconds to find all the words. You can get hints and even get it to show you the answers.

Watch a short video to see how it's done. (499k swf)

How to use it with students
  • This is great for vocabulary revision, especially with higher levels. Students could even learn some new vocabulary from it.
  • It would look great on an interactive whiteboard (IWB) or you could give students a collection of vocabulary themes and get them to work on their own.
  • Good to use as a filler for students who finish early

What I like about it
  • It's free
  • Each wordsearch it generates is pretty much unique
  • The timing adds an element of motivation and competition to it
  • It's just so simple
  • I tried a random selection of very unsuitable words that students might put in and it seems that those words are censored, so you don't have to worry so much about badly behaved students looking at unsuitable images
  • It's actually quite tricky

What I'm not so sure about
  • Because it's based on the tags that images are given the words can sometimes seem a bit tangential
  • It's actually quite tricky
  • You can't save your wordsearches (Actually I've just discovered that you can. If you look at the top of the page you can click 'embed puzzle' and this will generate a code that will enable you to embed the wordsearch into a webpage or blog)
This is the kind of site that might have been custom made for language teaching.
Hope you find it useful and your students enjoy it.