Monday, February 25, 2013

5 Good Services to Help Students Learn New Vocabulary Words

This morning I received an email from a reader who was looking for some recommendations for websites that her students can use to learn and practice new vocabulary words. I have made a couple of lists on this topic in the past but it's been a while since I updated them and a couple of the items in those lists have gone offline. Therefore, I put together a new list of the websites that I recommend.

Professor Word is a service that can help students learn new SAT and ACT vocabulary words. Professor Word operates as a browser bookmarklet in Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Safari. When you're reading a webpage click on the Professor Word bookmarklet to quickly identify SAT and ACT vocabulary words on that page. You can also use Professor Word to get definitions for any unfamiliar word on a webpage. To get a definition just highlight the word a small dialogue box containing the definition will appear.

Vocabulary Spelling City offers a database of more than 42,000 spelling words and sentences. The words and sentences can be customized for your students. This means that Vocabulary Spelling City supports US and UK spellings of words like "favorite" and "favourite," "color" and "colour." Teachers can use Vocabulary Spelling City to create custom lists of words for their students to practice spelling and to study the definitions of those words. To help students learn the proper pronunciation of the words on their practice lists Vocabulary Spelling City provides clear, spoken recordings of every word. Students can play games, study words, and quiz themselves on the spellings of the words on their lists. Vocabulary Spelling City allows teachers to print activities for use in their classrooms when their students don't have access to computers.

Wordia is a service that offers features videos of people (students and teachers) explaining and demonstrating the meaning of words. Wordia offers games based on the words in the word lists developed by Wordia staff and the lists developed by teachers and students. Students and teachers have the option to create their own word lists and create their own games based on those lists.

Knoword is a fun and challenging game that tests your ability to match definitions to words. Knoword is played like this; you're presented with the first letter of a word, its part of speech, and the definition. You then have to fill in the correct spelling of the word. If you enter the correct word, you earn points. If you don't get it right, you lose points. You don't have to register to play Knoword, but you can register if you want. Registering for Knoword gives you the option to keep track of your game statistics. Registered users can also earn badges based on their performances.

Vocab Ahead offers online study rooms in which students can take practice vocabulary quizzes. The quizzes provide instant feedback on each question as well as summary information at the end of the quiz. While taking the quiz if a student is stuck on an item he or she can click on the hint tab. Vocab Ahead also offers video demonstrations of SAT vocabulary words. Teachers can create their own custom video playlists and place them into playlist widgets.

Disclosure: VocabularySpelling City is an advertiser on Free Technology for Teachers.

CK-12's "Get Real" Contest Gives Students a Chance to Win iPads and More for Their Classrooms

Last week I received an email from CK-12 that announced their new Get Real competition. The Get Real contest asks students to create presentations (videos, PowerPoint, Keynote, and Prezi are all acceptable) that demonstrates how a STEM concept included in CK-12 materials applies to the real world. CK-12 gives the example of using the concept of congruent triangles to build pyramids. Students can work individually or in groups. The winners of the contest will receive their choice of 25 iPads, Chromebooks, Nooks, or Kindles for their classroom. Read all of the contest rules and details here.

One of CK-12's core features is Flexbooks. Flexbooks are multimedia digital books that teachers can assemble to exactly match what they teach. The video below, produced by Gladys Scott, demonstrates how to create a CK-12 Flexbook for mathematics.

76 Examples of Using Haiku Deck in School

Last weekend Kristen Swanson shared some ideas for using Haiku Deck to promote visual literacy. This morning I noticed that the Haiku Deck blog has a post containing five examples of using Haiku Deck in school. That post contains a link to Haiku Deck's Education Case Studies Pinterest board. That board currently contains 76 examples of Haiku Deck being used by students and teachers.

If you're not familiar with it or haven't tried Haiku Deck, here's what you need to know. It's a free iPad app for creating slideshow presentations. There are two features of Haiku Deck that stand out. First, Haiku Deck intentionally limits how much text that you can put on each of your slides. Second, Haiku Deck helps you find Creative Commons licensed images for your presentations. When you type a word or words on your slides you can have Haiku Deck search for images for you. The images that Haiku Deck serves up are large enough to completely fill your slide. You can also upload your own images from your iPad or import images from Instagram and Facebook.

Applications for Education
Here's an example of Haiku Deck being used by first and second grade students.

Created with Haiku Deck, the free presentation app for iPad

Here's an another Haiku Deck that I like.
Created with Haiku Deck, the free presentation app for iPad

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Baby Tigers and Other Wonders on BBC Earth

This evening while some people were watching the Oscars I was watching baby tigers. Thanks to this post on The Adventure Blog I rediscovered the BBC Earth YouTube channel. After watching the baby tigers I found myself sucked into lots of short, educational clips on the BBC Earth channel.



wireWax - Create Interactive Videos and Play Videos Within Videos

wireWax is a new service that takes the concept of YouTube annotations and makes it much better. On wireWax you can build interactive tags into your videos. Each tag that you add to your video have another video from YouTube or Vimeo or an image from Facebook, Flickr, or Instagram. A tag can also include an audio track from SoundCloud or a reference article from Qwiki.

What makes using wireWax different from using the YouTube annotations tool is that clicking on your tags (what YouTube calls annotations) does not send you outside of the video you're currently watching. This means that you can watch a video within a video or view a picture or listen to a different audio track within the original video. When you click a tag in the original video the video pauses and the tagged item is displayed.

wireWax allows you to add tags to any YouTube video that is publicly viewable and has not had embedding disabled. I tried wireWax with this five minute video. It took a while (15-20 minutes) for the video to process for tagging, but once it was processed it was easy to create a tag. To create my tag I just advanced the video to the spot I wanted to tag, drew a box around the person I was tagging, then selected the wireWax YouTube app to put a video within the original video. Check it out below by advancing to about the 1.5 minute mark.


Applications for Education
wireWax could be a great tool for adding new layers of information to educational videos. If you're creating videos for your students or your students are creating videos to share with others consider tagging key points at which viewers might have questions. At those points insert tags that reveal clarifying information in the form of a video, an image, or an audio recording.