Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Palabea - Social Networking Meets Foreign Language Virtual Classroom

Palabea is a website for learning a foreign language through a variety of methods and media. Palabea is a free service that users can create a profile on in order to meet native speakers of the language they're trying to learn. Users essentially become peer teachers of the language through audio or video conferencing. Palabea also hosts language classrooms where users can find instruction, take quizzes, or practice different elements of learning a language. Palabea users can also find videos and podcasts designed to help student learn a foreign language.

Applications for Education
Much of the content on Palabea is user generated and therefore may contain commonly used slang rather than formal language. A good use of Palabea could be to use it as method of exposing high school students (terms of use require 14 or older) to conversational language that they might experience when meeting a native speaker.

Why Americans Know Less About the World

From the Open Culture collection of Intelligent YouTube Videos comes this short video of a TED talk from this past winter. In the video Alisa Miller explains, through maps, why Americans don't know as much about world news as compared to their peers in other countries. Ms. Miller gives a convincing presentation that has some implications for educators in the United States.

Implications for Education
Educators in America hear the news reports and see the statistics about how our students measure up to the rest of the world all the time. There are a lot of reasons and responses that can be offered, but let's not ignore the fact that we're charged to do something. As a teacher who promotes the use of technology in the classroom as a global learning experience, a video or story like the one from Alisa Miller offers a great justification for increasing access to the Internet in the classroom. If mainstream media cannot or will not spend adequate time covering world news then as a teacher it's my job to make students globally aware and teach them how to find and access world news.

Fun Summer Learning Activities

As summer approaches it's time to start thinking about ways that students can continue their learning after leaving your classroom for the year. A lot of schools assign summer reading lists or summer assignments for students to complete on their own. Creating fun and meaningful summer assignments is a lot of work and not something a lot of teachers have the energy for by the time June arrives. Fortunately, has created a great list of fun and meaningful summer learning activities. has summer activities appropriate for all students in grades K through 12.

Applications for Education
Each activity from is designed to develop writing and reading skills. The activities allow for student choice in regards to reading material and final product design. One aspect of the activities that teachers in lower income or rural school districts is that some of the activity ideas can easily be altered for completion offline.