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Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Find Self-Paced Math Lessons on Khan Academy

Khan Academy is well known for its collection of more than 1800 instructional math, science, history, and economics videos. Did you know that Khan Academy also offers self-paced mathematics lessons? I didn't until I saw Will Richardson Tweet about a couple of days ago. The lessons cover everything from basic addition lessons to lessons in trigonometry. Each lesson has practice exercises for students to work through. If they get stuck on a problem they can click a "hint" button or watch a video lesson to help them through the lesson. On the exercises dashboard on Khan Academy there is a road map for lessons that shows visitors a recommended path to follow as they complete each lesson.

Applications for Education
Khan Academy self-paced lessons could be a great resource to supplement your classroom instruction. If I taught math, I would make sure that a link to the Khan Academy lessons was prominently displayed on my course blog. The self-paced lessons could also be a great resource for home school students and their parents.

Sync.in - Realtime Document Collaboration

Sync.in is a web based document creation service that allows users to collaborate in realtime. People that have used services like TitanPad or Type With Me will notice a lot of similarities to those services in Sync.in because all three services are based on the EtherPad code made public by Google.

Sync.in provides a place for anyone to start a collaborative document without registering for the service. Once you've started your document it is assigned a unique url that you can share with anyone you want to collaborate with. Sync.in gives each person his or her own text color so that you can keep track of who wrote what. If you want to go back in time to see how the document developed, you can do that with the time slider on Sync.in. Documents on Sync.in can be exported and downloaded to your local computer.

See Sync.in in action in the video below.


Applications for Education
Sync.in could be used as a platform for quickly hosting and recording an online brainstorming session with your students. Students working in groups could use Sync.in to create outlines of lectures or share the burden of taking notes. Sync.in could also be used by students to collaboratively write a short story. One student could start the document then each subsequent student could add a line or paragraph to the story.

So You Want To Be a Writer?

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This morning I happened to overhear a student talking to one of my colleagues about the student's desire to become a writer. My colleague was encouraging the student to continue working on his writing if he enjoys it, but my colleague was also telling the student how difficult it is to get published and reach an audience. As they were wrapping up the conversation I jumped in to encourage the student to start a blog to share his writings with family and friends. I briefly mentioned that as he audience grew that could open up some other writing opportunities and some potential income. My point was not that writing a blog would get the student a book deal or make him any money. Rather my point was that if he wants to be a writer and have people read his work, a blog gives him the power to do that without having to go through the traditional gatekeepers of the publishing world.

Three Ways Independent Student Writers Can Reach a Bigger Audience

The obvious way that students can reach a bigger audience is to maintain their own personal blogs that they share with their family and friends. Blogger, WordPress, Tumblr, Edublogs, are easy to use blogging tools that students can set up in minutes. Which platform students choose to use for their personal blogs isn't terribly important. What is important is that if they're serious about writing they keep writing and they may slowly grow an audience. To encourage the student in the story above, I shared the story of Chris Guillebeau's 279 Days to Overnight Success

Teen Ink provides a forum for students to post their writings, get feedback from peers on their reading, and read the writing of other teens. Submissions on Teen Ink that are really outstanding are considered for inclusion in Teen Ink's print publications.

Ink Pop is a site similar to Teen Ink that provides a place for teens to share their writings with each other. Teens can create profiles on Ink Pop and interact with each other. Ink Pop also offers writing contests for its members.

11 Language Arts Resources to Try in 2011

To help you start off 2011 with some good resources to try in your classrooms, each day this week I'm posting a list of eleven good resources to try. Monday's list featured mathematics resources, yesterday's list featured science resources, and today's list features language arts resources. In creating this list I branched out a bit to include ESL/ ELL resources.


Wordia is a free visual, video dictionary. Wordia features a selection of user-submitted and professionally created videos explaining the meaning of a word. The videos focus on the everyday use of words while the text accompanying each video provides the dictionary definition of the word.


Visuwords uses a web design to show users the definitions of words and the connections between words. To use Visuwords just type a word into the search box and Visuwords will generate a web of related words. Place your cursor over any of the words and the definition appears. Use the color-coded key to understand the connections between the words in any web.

For someone learning the English language, particularly the American version of English, idioms can be difficult to understand. The Idiom Dictionary was created to help people understand the meanings of more than five thousand English idioms. To use the Idiom Dictionary just enter a phrase or part of a phrase into the search box and the Idiom Dictionary will offer an explanation of that idiom.

The Canadian Adaptations of Shakespeare Project has an outstanding interactive resource that everyone who teaches lessons on Romeo and Juliet should bookmark. Interactive Folio: Romeo and Juliet is an interactive display of the text of Romeo and Juliet. As students read the document they can click on any link in the text to view definitions, images, audio recordings, and videos related to the content they're reading. 

22 Frames is a new service that provides a central location for locating captioned videos for learning English and for Internet users who have hearing impairments. 22 Frames provides more than just captioned videos. For each video 22 Frames provides a list of idioms, slang words, and commonly mispronounced words in each video. 22 Frames tells viewers where each use of idioms, slang, and commonly mispronounced words appears in each video. Viewers can click on any of the words in the lists provided by 22 Frames to find a definition for each word and to find pronunciation tips.

Mind mapping or creating webs can help students develop a story outline. There are many good mind mapping tools online (see nine here), one that I really like is Bubbl.us. Bubbl.us is a free mind mapping/ graphic organization tool that allows users to collaboratively create and edit mind maps. Bubbl.us takes just seconds to figure out and you can try it before registering for an account. With Bubbl.us users can use their keyboard or use the drag and drop interface to arrange elements in their mind maps. Publishing work created with Bubbl.us can be done by exporting the file to a JPEG, PNG, or as an XML or HTML file. Any mind map created using Bubbl.us can be embedded into a blog or website.

Books Should Be Free is a provider of free audio books. Books Should Be Free hosts hundreds of free audio books in a wide range of genres. All of the audio books in the collection are either public domain or Creative Commons works. All of the audio books can be downloaded directly from Books Should Be Free and or iTunes. One of the aspects of Books Should Be Free that I think some students will really appreciate is the large display of book covers that they'll see when browsing by genre. It's true that we should teach students not to judge a book by its cover, yet at the same time a good cover might get students interested in books they would otherwise ignore. If you have a student in need of an audio book to support their reading, Books Should Be Free could be a good place to start your search.

Through Google for Educators Weekly Reader has published a small collection of pdf guides for teaching the collaborative revision process using Google Documents. Teaching Collaborative Revision with Google Docs includes step-by-step guides for using Google Docs, a set of four documents for student use, and a teachers' guide with suggested lesson plans.


Thumb Scribes is a platform for collaboratively creating poems and short stories. Thumb Scribes can be used in two ways. First, you can contribute to story or poem that someone else has started and placed in the public gallery. Second, you can start your own story or poem and either place it in the public gallery or invite others to collaborate with you. If you put your poem or story in the public gallery anyone can add to it. If you don't want the whole world adding to your poem or story you can mark it as "private" and invite individuals to add to it.

AdLit is a website that one of my colleagues who teaches reading shared with me. AdLit.org is all about adolescent literature. On AdLit teachers can find book lists, video interviews with authors, and a comprehensive list of strategies for teaching reading and writing. The strategies page gives detailed descriptions of how to implement each strategy. AdLit's strategies page also gives guidance as to the proper timing for implementing the suggested strategies.

60 Second Recap provides book summaries in sixty second video segments. There is a sixty second summary of each chapter of each book. Along with the chapter summaries there is a general overview of each book. 60 Second Recap offers registered users the option to record a video response to each video summary. If you don't have access to a web cam, you can record a simple text response.

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