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Monday, June 2, 2008

Spelling Game - Spin and Spell

Spin and Spell is a fun game for young students learning to spell. The game is completely web based and operates in Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Safari although in my testing there were a couple of glitches when using Safari. Spin and Spell asks student to pick from five categories of words to spell. Inside each of those categories are pictures and students have to spell the name of item in the picture by selecting letters from a wheel. Each time a letter is selected the wheel spins. If a student gets stuck and can't spell the word there is a "show me" button which reveals the correct spelling of the word in question.

Applications for Education
Spin and Spell is an entertaining and engaging way for students to practice and develop spelling skills. The game can be played individually which makes it useful for differentiated instruction in the classroom. Spin and Spell can also be played as a two player game making it a competitive or collaborative experience. The visual clues provided could be helpful to some students to remember the correct spellings of words.

Peer to Peer Lending For Micro Student Loans

Green Note is a company specializing in peer to peer lending for student aid. (Peer to peer lending is also known as social lending). Green Note, like the Fynanz service reviewed earlier this year, is designed to help students bridge the gap between financial need and the financial aid packages they receive from their college or university. Green Note facilitates loans between members of social networks. Loans can come from friends and relatives or from private investors looking to make low-risk loans. In their words, "get student loans from people who believe in you." Loan amounts are flexible and can be larger than $10,000 or as small as $100. For students the benefits are a low fixed interest rate and no co-signer requirement. For lenders the benefit is a low-risk investment opportunity.

Gift Ideas for Graduates (and others)

It's graduation season which means that for many of us it's also "graduation present buying" season. I'm a man and therefore genetically programmed to struggle with gift ideas. Fortunately, I've just found a neat website called "Gift Gen." Gift Gen is a simple website that helps people like me generate gift ideas. The website asks users four simple questions about the person the gift will be for and then Gift Gen generates a list of gift ideas for you. Gift Gen is based in the UK so there are some slight cultural and monetary adjustments US users will have to make, but overall it's a simple site that is sure to help you at least get some gift ideas together for "that cousin" or "that niece" of yours graduating this year.

Art History Via Flickr

The Brooklyn Museum seems to really embrace social media and user generated content. Last month the Brooklyn Museum hosted an online visitor curated exhibit called Click. Now the Brooklyn Museum has made available, on Flickr, thousands images from their collection. The Brooklyn Museum's Flickr photostream contains 54 albums featuring thousands of images spanning numerous aspects of art and art history.

Applications for Education
Online art collections like those from the Brooklyn Museum and other museums, art galleries, and libraries make far more material available to students than they would ever find in their school or local library.

Online art collections are useful in other content areas as well. A collection of Egyptian images is a great supplement to a history lesson as it can engage visual learners. And if you're looking for material to complement an American literature or American history course be sure to check out The Commons collection on Flickr in addition to the Brooklyn Museum's collections.

Short Audio Essays as Writing Prompts

NPR's "This I Believe" segments and WGBH's "Morning Stories" are short, thoughtful, and thought provoking essays covering a wide range of topics. These essays are broadcast over the air at various times (check your local station listings) and are also available as podcasts directly from the NPR and WGBH websites and from iTunes. One "This I Believe" story that grabbed my attention as I was driving to work last week was the story of an attorney given the unenviable task of awarding compensation to the families of 9/11 victims. Listen to the full story, "What Is the Value of a Human Life?" by clicking here.

Applications for Education
Both of these programs are available as podcasts for use in the classroom. The topics of the essays vary greatly so there is bound to be something that every humanities teacher can use as a conversation starter or a writing prompt. Both programs have written transcripts of the audio recordings available on their websites. The transcripts are a good for students to have to refer back to during classroom discussion or as they write responses to the essays.

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