Monday, October 7, 2013

Five Visual Dictionaries and Thesauri for Students

Like all teachers I have found that the right visual aids can make all the difference between students understanding a term or walking away shaking their heads. This pattern is carries over to learning new vocabulary words and or seeing the connections between similar words. Here are five visual dictionaries and thesauri that can help your students learn new vocabulary words.

Got Brainy is a site that I've used since it launched a few years ago. Got Brainy features two sections; Brainy Flix and Brainy Pics. Brainy Pics is comprised of images that demonstrate the meaning of a word. Most of the pictures are submitted by students. Brainy Flix is comprised of short videos that illustrate the meaning of words. Just like with Brainy Pics, most of the videos are submitted by students. This resource has gone offline.

Snappy Words is a free visual dictionary and thesaurus. Enter any word or phrase into the Snappy Words search box and it will create a web of related words, phrases, and definitions. Hover your cursor over any word or phrase in the web to read its definition. Click and drag any node to explore other branches of the web. Double click on a node and it will generate new web branches.

Image Dictionary is a Chrome extension that enables users to right-click on a word and quickly find an image that is representative of that word. To use the Image Dictionary extension just highlight a word on a webpage, right-click, and select "image search." The images that are shown come from Wikipedia. Image Dictionary could be a handy little extension to use when you want to quickly find an image to represent a plant, animal, or perhaps a broad topic.

Word Sense is a neat little service that is one part dictionary and one part thesaurus. When you enter a word into Word Sense it will show you the definition(s) for the word as well as the connections to associated and similar words. You can see any of the definitions of the connected words by simply clicking on them to pop-up a definition. This resource has gone offline.

Visuwords uses a web design to show users the definitions of words and the connections between words. To use Visuwords just type a word into the search box and Visuwords will generate a web of related words. Place your cursor over any of the words and the definition appears. Use the color-coded key to understand the connections between the words in any web.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Create Flashcards from Google Spreadsheets

If you browse through the Google Docs Template Gallery you will find a bunch of templates for creating flashcards in Google Spreadsheets. There is also a flashcard script available in the script gallery (open the insert menu in a spreadsheet to search for the script). None of those templates nor the script is as easy to use as Flippity.

Flippity is a free tool for creating flashcards from data in a Google Spreadsheet. Flippity provides clear directions for the simple steps to take to create your flashcards. To create your flashcards use the Flippity template, enter your data, publish the spreadsheet to the web, then grab your Flippity link. Your Flippity link will take you to a Flippity page on which you and your students can flip through your flashcards. Flippity includes a shuffle function and an option to remove cards from your deck of flashcards as you flip through them.

Applications for Education
Flippity is a good tool that you and or your students can use to create flashcards for any number of topics. I learned about Flippity from Steve Fortna who is a Spanish teacher.

The Bill of Rights in 30 Seconds and a Video Assignment for History Students

I've said it before and I'll continue to say to it, U.S. History teachers and students really should subscribe to Hip Hughes History on YouTube. Keith Hughes does a fantastic job of presenting short overviews of key concepts and events in U.S. History. Unlike a lot of "flipped classroom videos" Keith's videos are upbeat and engaging. After watching his Government Shutdown for Dummies video I saw one of Keith's older videos for the first time. The Bill of Rights in 30 Seconds is a very fast overview of the key concepts of the Bill of Rights, check it out on YouTube or watch it below.


Applications for Education
After they watch The Bill of Rights in 30 Seconds have your students take the same concept of using props and have them create 30 second video overviews of each of the concept in the Bill of Rights. In an assignment like that production quality isn't as important to me as content and students' demonstrations of understanding. I would have students use simple video editing tools like the YouTube iOS or Android apps to record do the rough editing of their videos.

Hip Hughes Explains Government Shutdown

Earlier this week Keith Hughes, producer of the world renowned YouTube channel Hip Hughes History, released a new video in which he explains the current U.S. Government shutdown. In The Government Shutdown for Dummies Keith covers the causes of the government shutdown and explains what it means for ordinary citizens. The video is intended for high school students.


For even more resources on the government shutdown check out the lists of resources that Glenn Wiebe and Larry Ferlazzo have assembled. 

How to Create and Edit Flexbooks Online

Earlier this year I shared a nice tutorial that Gladys Scott produced about creating CK-12 Flexbooks. This morning I Google+ I saw that Gladys has released two new tutorials on the same topic. Her new tutorials cover how to create and how to edit CK-12 Flexbooks. The videos are embedded below.



Applications for Education
Tools like CK-12 Flexbooks can be very useful for producing reference materials that are tailored specifically to your curriculum and your students' needs.