Friday, April 15, 2011

Power Vocab - An iPhone App for Vocabulary Study

Power Vocab is a free iPhone App for learning and studying vocabulary commonly found on the GMAT and GRE. The app uses artificial intelligence based on the research of the MIT Web Semantics Lab and MIT Artificial Intelligence Lab. The artificial intelligence in the Power Vocab app is used to learn about your vocabulary skills and habits to then present you with the word lists and exercises you need to focus on. The app provides you with tools to track your progress as your test date approaches.

Applications for Education
Power Vocab is designed with the GMAT and GRE in mind, but that doesn't mean that high school students preparing for the SAT can't benefit from it too.

For the Android users reading this, here are Three Free Android Apps for Vocabulary Practice.

Internet Safety Hangman

Here's a simple game review game to use after a lesson on Internet safety. Internet Safety Hangman is a series of hangman puzzles that use words and phrases related to Internet safety. Each puzzle has a hint to help students guess the correct letters and words. This game is part of Quia's shared activities.
For more activities and resources for teaching Internet safety, check out 11 Resources for Teaching & Learning Web Safety.

Weekend Project - Build a Web Presence for Your Professional Self

It's getting to be that time of year when new graduates and seasoned veterans alike start to explore their job options. If you are one of those people looking for a new job in education, I have a project for you that could help your cause the next time you apply for a position. That project is to create a web presence for your professional self.

There are a lot ways you can create a web presence for yourself and I'll outline a few below, but first let's talk about why you should do this. A web presence in which you make public your thoughts about education allows prospective employers to do a little research on what you really think is important in education. A lot of people can shovel eduspeak for an hour in an interview, but what you really think can't easily be hidden over months of blogging. Likewise, for those candidates who get nervous at interviews and can't shovel the eduspeak as well as others, months or years of blog posts allows a prospective employer to know the "real you."

If you don't have time to fill up a blog with your thoughts about education before that next interview create a website on which you feature your best lesson plans. Even better, if you have videos of yourself teaching, post those videos. Again, it's one thing to listen to someone talk about teaching, but it's another to actually see someone teach. I'm surprised by how many people have great lesson plans, even technology infused lesson plans, that no one knows about because they don't share their lessons.

Create a Blog.
There are a lot of free platforms for creating a blog. Here are tutorials for creating a blog with some of the most popular free platforms.





Creating a website to display your professional portfolio.
There are many many platforms for creating a free website. Here are a few of my preferred platforms.

If you already have a Google Account, Google Sites is already available to you. Just select it from the menu of services that you're not using. Google offers a wide variety of templates that you can use and customize on your site. Should you decide at a later date that you want to add other contributors to your site, you can do so with just a couple of clicks in the sharing menu. Learn more about Google Sites in this video.

Weebly was one of the first website building tools that I played around with when I got started on my technology integration journey. It's a very intuitive and feature rich platform for creating a free website. For those reasons, it's always on my list of recommendations to teachers who want to build a classroom website.

Webs is another service that I have first-hand experience with in a school setting because a couple of my colleagues have used it for their classes. Webs has all of the characteristics that you would expect to find in a free website platform. Websites built using Webs can include videos, calendars, polls, and a wide variety of third party widgets. Webs offers a wide variety templates and layouts to select from.

Don't forget to network.
I can't write about creating a web presence for your professional self without mentioning the value of networking. Creating an online network of contacts gives you people to exchange ideas with and to possibly learn about new job opportunities. Create a LinkedIn account and look for people you know to connect with. You might be surprised to find folks you worked with years ago to reconnect with on LinkedIn. Consider joining a education network like Classroom 2.0 to connect with other educators. Finally, I like Twitter a lot, but it does take time to build up a network of connections on it. If you're interested in learning how to develop a PLN, check out my slides on the topic

Joliprint - Easily Convert Online Articles to a Print Friendly Format

Joliprint is a free service that converts online articles into a printer-friendly, reader-friendly format. The easiest way to use Joliprint is to add their bookmarklet to your browser's toolbar. Once installed click the Joliprint bookmarklet whenever you're reading an article that you want to print and Joliprint will generate a PDF of that article without the sidebar content from that blog or website. If you don't want to install the Joliprint bookmarklet you can simply copy a url and paste it into the conversion box on Joliprint.

Joliprint is not designed to work with search engine results list or homepages of sites and blogs. Joliprint only works with specific article urls. For example it won't work if you try it on but will work with Take a look at a Joliprint rendered PDF of the link I just listed.

Applications for Education
If you're in the habit of printing articles to give to your students to read try using Joliprint to convert those articles into a reader-friendly format while saving ink and paper at the same time.

It's April 15th, Let's Learn About Taxes

April 15th is usually the deadline for filing income tax returns in the United States. This year, the deadline is April 18th. I usually have a few students in my classroom that are filing tax returns for the first time so this is a good time to give a short lesson on income taxes. If you would like to do the same, here are some resources to explore.

The IRS website, Understanding Taxes, is a good source of lesson plans and individual learning materials about taxes and budgets. In the teacher section of the site you will find lesson plans like this one (opens as pdf) designed to teach students about services for which tax revenue is used.

PBS Kids has a great lesson plan for introducing young students to the concepts of budgets and taxes. The lesson starts with a focus on the students' personal budget before moving onto the basic concepts of government budget.

Visual Economics is a provider of articles and infographics about various economics-related topics. Yesterday, I came across an infographic they produced titled How Wealthy Countries Tax Their Citizens. The infographic depicts how the world's 29 wealthiest countries tax their citizens and how that money is spent. Some of the other infographics from Visual Economics are Timeline of the New Healthcare Bill, US Trade Bans Across the Globe, and A Detailed Look at TARP.