Friday, July 8, 2011

Verbling - Practice and Learn a Language with a Partner

Verbling is a new site designed to match people who are willing to help each other learn a new language. For now the site only supports English and Spanish, but it appears that they have plans to expand their offerings in the future.

Verbling matches native speakers of a language with people who want to learn that language. Then at the appointed meeting times the two people get together to have a live conversation using one of the suggested conversation starters. Half-way through the session they switch languages so that both people get to practice the language that is new to them. Currently, Verbling is hosting two conversation sessions a day at 3pm (ET) and 10pm (ET).

See TechCrunch's post about Verbling to learn more about the company.

Applications for Education
Verbling could be a good way for students who are trying to learn a language to get some valuable practice with native speakers of that language.

Pencamp - Quickly Publish Your Writing Online

Pencamp is a simple platform for quickly publishing your writing. To get started writing and publishing with Pencamp just enter a name for your page and enter specify a password for editing then start writing. Pencamp is not a blogging platform it's a platform for publishing an informational article or story about a specific topic. You can create as many Pencamp pages as you like for free. Commenting is not an option on Pencamp pages. Check out the Pencamp page that I started about my dog Morrison.

Applications for Education
If you're looking for a service that will allow your students to publish their writing online without having to got through the process of creating a full-fledged blog, Pencamp could be just what you need. Because there is not a registration process you could have a whole class of students working online without losing much classroom time to walking students through a registration process.

Final Shuttle Launch - Videos, Images, and More

This morning the space shuttle Atlantis was launched on its final mission. In case you missed the live webcast of the launch this morning, the video is available on YouTube and in NASA's video gallery. I've embedded it below.

After the launch NASA held an hour-long press conference in which a number of questions about the current state of NASA's programs and the future of NASA's space exploration missions. You can watch that video here.

National Geographic has updated their pages about the shuttle program with new images, videos, and articles. A few of the many things worth highlighting on National Geographic's pages include this photo gallery of Discovery's milestones, a history of the shuttle program, and five myths about the Challenger disaster.  

The New York Times published 30 Years of the Space Shuttle which is an interactive timeline about the shuttle program. Place your cursor over each marker on the timeline to learn more about each shuttle's missions and milestones. Thanks to Angela Maiers for sharing this resource.

Larry Ferlazzo has also assembled a good list of resources for teaching and learning about the shuttle program.

Math 4 Mobile - Five Mobile Math Apps

Math 4 Mobile offers five free mobile applications that mathematics students can use to learn about and solve a variety of problem types. The five apps perform the majority of functions that most students need through high school. I'm not sure that the apps will completely replace the need for graphing calculators, but I also don't think that Math 4 Mobile is trying to do that yet. Watch the video below to learn more about Math 4 Mobile's current and future offerings.

Applications for Education
Take a look around your classroom and you'll see that students almost never forget to carry their cellphones with them, yet they might forget to carry a calculator. Furthermore students rarely carry a calculator anywhere outside of mathematics class. Having students install these apps could mean that they will always have access to the tools they need to complete the mathematics assignments that they need to complete.

I saw this posted on Twitter this morning and forgot to note who shared it. If it was you, please leave a comment and let me know so that I can link to you. 

Google Products Updates Round-up

Over the last two weeks Google has rolled out a bunch of updates and new services. Rather than writing a post about each one of those updates and new services, I've put together this round-up to summarize some of the key points.

The biggest news, which you've probably heard by now, is that Google launched a new social networking service called Google+. I was only able to get into Google+ this morning despite the fact that people had been inviting me to join since the launch last week. The basic premise of Google+ seems to be that you can create groups (what Google is calling circles) with whom you share information in the form of written updates, images, videos, and links. It's kind of like making lists in Twitter except that you not only specify who you see updates from in your circles you also specify who you share with through your circles. Google+ also includes options for video chatting which they call "hanging out." You can also "huddle" with a group of your contacts. Huddling is the Google+ term for instant messaging with a circle. Like I said, I'm just starting to explore Google+, but so far it seems a little more streamlined than the failed Google Wave. I think for educators at this point the most promising feature is Circles for sharing. Learn more about Circles in the video below.

Google Maps got a face lift last week just as I was showing some features to some teachers. Beyond the cosmetics of the layout changes which I think are minor, there are some important changes to note for people who create maps in Google Maps. First, you'll notice that "my maps" has been replaced by "my places." To create a new map now you have to do so under the "my places" label. The other change of note for map creators is that Google seems to have removed the option for "view in Google Earth." In the past clicking "view in Google Earth" would produce a KML file that you could download and reuse in Google Earth. I often used that feature to transition people from creating in Google Maps to creating in Google Earth. Keep track of all Google Maps and Google Earth updates on the Google Lat Long Blog.

Google Docs received a couple of enhancements yesterday. Google has tweaked the mobile settings to allow for easier sharing of documents from mobile devices. This is good news, but from my experiences using the Google Docs Android App they still have some work to do to make it as good as the experience you get in your standard web browser. The other enhancement Google Docs received yesterday is that you can now caption videos within Google Docs. To do this you need to upload your video to Google Docs. Keep track of all Google Docs updates at the Google Docs Blog.

Everyday more and more people are accessing the web on mobile devices. To address the need for better viewing of sites and blogs on mobile devices Google now makes it easier to create mobile versions of your Blogger Blog or Google Site. Learn how to activate mobile designs in Blogger here. Click here to learn how to activate mobile designs for Google Sites.

Finally, those of you who use Blogger should expect a change to your dashboard and blog post editor in the near future (my guess is before the end of 2011). If you go to to sign into your blog you can try out the new look now. I'm using the new editor to compose this post. And while it is visually more like creating a word processing document, I have been experiencing an annoying lag due to the auto-save enabled by Blogger. Hopefully, that is resolved before they force all users to the new interface.