Saturday, December 2, 2017

Rewordify - A Tool to Help Students Understand Complex Texts

Rewordify is a free site that can help students understand complex passages of text. At its most basic level Rewordify takes a complex passage and rephrases it in simpler terms. Students can adjust Rewordify's settings to match their needs. For example, students can add words to a "skip list" and those words will not be changed when they appear in a passage. Students can also use Rewordify to simply highlight difficult words instead of having them replaced. Watch the video below for a complete overview of how Rewordify works.

Applications for Education
Rewordify could be helpful to students when they are challenged to read a book or article that is a step or two above their current reading levels. After trying to read through a tricky passage students can use Rewordify to help the check their comprehension of that passage.

Quickly Compare Two or More Items in Wolfram Alpha

Wolfram Alpha has a comparison function that makes it easy to quickly compare basic information about two or more things. To compare biographical information about two or more people, just type their names into the Wolfram Alpha search field (use commas between names). To compare other things just type them into the search field (again, use commas to separate them) and Wolfram Alpha will provide data for comparison. You can even compare apples, oranges, and bananas (Wolfram Alpha will provide nutritional information for the fruits).

Applications for Education
One of the aspects of Wolfram Alpha's comparison function that can be of use to students researching the lives of famous people is the timeline comparison. The timeline will show students where the lives of two or more people overlap. In social studies classes the comparison function is useful for creating a quick guide to the party affiliations of a set of politicians. In a health class the comparison function is great for helping students quickly see the differences in the nutritional qualities of various foods.

51 World Geography Games for Kids

World Geography Games is a free site that features 51 geography games. The games are simple identification games in which students are shown the name of a country, state, city, or geographic feature and then have to click on the correct locations. Students earn points for each correct answer. World Geography Games tracks how many attempts students make at correctly answering each question.

Applications for Education
The concept of the World Geography Games is not unique. The aspect of the World Geography Games that is interesting is that students have unlimited attempts at correctly answering a question. Students do not receive any clues, they simply see the number of attempts increase. At first I didn't like this, but it actually could be a good thing as it will force students to stick with the game even when it gets tough.

Tools to Help Students Improve Their Writing

The spelling and grammar checkers built into word processors are fine for helping students catch basic mistakes in their writing. To get beyond the basics, students need tools that offer more than just spelling and grammar checking services. The following services can help students improve their writing.

StoryToolz offers a collection of free tools for student writers. Writers who are struggling to come up with ideas for fiction stories will like the story starters featured on StoryToolz. StoryToolz has three tools that students can use to get story ideas; Random Conflicts, Half Title Generator, and Story Idea Generator. In addition to the writing prompts tools, StoryToolz offers a few tools to help students edit their work. The Cliché Buster analyzes students' texts to find clichés that they have used in their writing. The Readability tool analyzes texts to estimate a reading level on several scales.

Hemingway offers students a bunch of information about the passages they have either written or copied and pasted into the site's editor. Hemingway highlights the parts of a student's writing that uses passive voice, adverbs, and overly complex sentences. All of those factors are accounted for in generating a general readability score for a student's written work. The Hemingway Editor also provides tools for formatting the text that students write in the web version of Hemingway. Students can create bullet lists, change font size and style, write numbered lists, and indent paragraphs in the Hemingway Editor.

GradeProof is a service designed to help students improve their writing. GradeProof lets students either import documents or write documents within the GradeProof editor. Either way that the students use, the next step is the same. GradeProof identifies spelling, grammar, and phrasing errors within a student's writing. GradeProof highlights and color codes the errors that it identifies for students. Students can then click on each highlighted error to see a suggested change. Students can click on each suggested change to immediately implement the change.

The Week in Review - Videos With YouTube Stars

Good morning from Maine where we're getting ready to spend the day acquiring and decorating a Christmas tree. Finding and cutting the tree should be a fun challenge with a toddler and an infant in tow. Wherever you are this weekend, I hope that you get time to do something fun too.

This week I hosted an online course called How to Teach With Video. YouTube education stars Keith Hughes and Tom Richey led sections of the course in which they shared their expertise on how to make engaging, educational videos. Many people asked if we'll offer the course again. The three of us chatted and decided to offer it again in the spring.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. EquatIO is Now Free for Teachers
2. GradeProof Helps Students Improve Their Papers
3. Distraction-free YouTube Viewing
4. A Fun Game About Ecosystems
5. Teaching With Crossword Puzzles from Read Write Think
6. Create Your School Newspaper With Lucidpress
7. A Health and Science Lesson - What Is Fat?

2018 Professional Development Opportunities
I am currently filling my calendar for workshop and keynote engagements. Click here to learn what I can do for you.

In 2018 I am facilitating an online professional development cohort of teachers, librarians, and tech coaches. Learn how you can join us by visiting this Practical Ed Tech page.

Please visit the official advertisers that help keep this blog going.
Practical Ed Tech is the brand through which I offer PD webinars.
Storyboard That is my go-to tool for creating storyboards.
SeeSaw is my favorite digital portfolio tool.
Metaverse enables anyone to create amazing things.
Kids Discover provides fantastic tools for helping kids discover new information. 
University of Maryland Baltimore County offers a great program on instructional design.
Discovery Education & Wilkes University offer online courses for earning Master's degrees in Instructional Media.
PrepFactory offers a great place for students to prepare for SAT and ACT tests.
Boise State University offers a 100% online program in educational technology.

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