Sunday, December 3, 2017

Zoho Notebook - Your Evernote and Google Keep Alternative

Zoho Notebook is the alternative to Evernote and Google Keep that I mentioned in last week's edition of Practical Ed Tech Live. Zoho Notebook is a free and advertising-free tool for taking notes in typed, drawn, and spoken form.

Zoho Notebook is available to use on Android, iOS, and Mac OS. There is a Zoho Notebook web clipper to use in Chrome, Safari, and Firefox. Everything that you save in Zoho Notebook will sync across all of the devices on which you use it. There is not a limit to the number of devices on which you can use Zoho Notebook.

One of the first things that you will notice about Zoho Notebook is its clean design. All of your notes can be organized into notebooks with customized covers. Your notes can be typed, drawn, or spoken. The first minute of spoken notes is automatically transcribed to make them easier to later search for in your notebooks. Pictures and task lists can also be added to your notebooks.

Zoho Notebook's web clipper is the tool to use to save links in your notebooks. The web clipper lets you save links, take screenshots, and write notes. There is also a "clean view" option in the Zoho Notebook web clipper that removes sidebar content from articles that you find and read on the web.

Applications for Education
Zoho Notebook could be a great tool for students who have been frustrated by the limitations on Evernote's free plans. It's also a good option for students who want a bit more in their digital notebooks than what Google Keep provides. I found it easy to quickly create drawn notes in Zoho Notebook. That quick drawing capability could make Zoho Notebook a great option for students to use to take notes in math, science, or any other subject where typing isn't always the most efficient way to record notes.

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.