Saturday, January 26, 2019

Free PDF Containing 30 Pages of Illustrated Vocabulary Lessons

I get what feels like zillions of emails every day from companies that I have never heard of. 90% of them go straight to the trash bin after a three second glance. But then every once in a while I get one that is useful. Today's random, but useful email came from a company called Mrs. Wordsmith. The email that received contained a link to this free 30 page PDF of vocabulary building activities (clicking link will open or download PDF depending upon your browser settings).

All of the activities in the PDF follow the same format. That format is to display a familiar word with a familiar sound highlighted in it. Then below that word students will see illustrations that correspond to similar sounding words. Finally, the illustrations are followed by a worksheet on which students try to spell the words that are represented by illustrations.

Overall, Mrs. Wordsmith's worksheets look like a fun way to help students develop spelling and vocabulary skills.

More Good News for Remind Users - And a Bit of Bad News

Last night I shared the great news that Verizon has reversed their policy on the fee that they were going to start charging Remind to deliver free text messages. That means that the 7 million Remind users who were due to stop receiving texts via Remind will not experience any service disruptions. This morning in my inbox I got more good news about Remind.

Thanks to Tracy Zordan who forwarded to me an email from Remind to Canadian Remind users, I learned that Bell has decided not to increase fees to Remind. This means that Bell mobile subscribers who use Remind will be able to continue receiving text messages for free without any service disruptions.

Unfortunately, Rogers Canada has not extended the same policies that Bell and Verizon have. That means that on Monday, January 28th any Remind user who has a Rogers mobile plan will no longer be able to receive Remind text messages.

The following screenshot is of the email that was sent to Remind users in Canada.
Click to view in full size. 

Boclips - Millions of Ad-free Educational Videos

Today at the BETT Show Bethany Beaudrie introduced me to a new educational video provider called Boclips for Teachers. Boclips hosts more than two million educational videos from more than 100 vetted video producers. You'll probably recognize many of the names in the list of videos producers. Two of the producers that I noticed right away were Crash Course and TED-Ed.

In Boclips for Teachers you can search for videos according to keyword. When you find a video or videos that you like you can put them into a collection in your Boclips account. Boclips doesn't use the YouTube video player like many other educational video sites. That is significant because it means that if your school blocks YouTube you will still be able to access all of the content available through Boclips for Teachers.

Boclips for Teachers is still in beta. As part of that beta Boclips is asking teachers to complete short surveys in exchange for unlimited, lifetime access to the Boclips library.

Applications for Education
Boclips for Teachers could become a great alternative to displaying YouTube videos in your classroom. The vetting of video producers who contribute to Boclips is significant because it means that when you search in Boclips for Teachers you won't find "related" videos that aren't actually related to your search.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Huge News! No Service Disruptions for Remind Users on Verizon Mobile Plans

Eleven days ago Remind announced that they would be discontinuing delivery of text messages to students and parents who were on Verizon wireless plans. That change was due to a change in the way that Verizon was classifying Remind messages and a huge increase in the fee that Verizon was going to charge Remind to deliver text messages. A few days after Remind's initial announcement there were rumors that Verizon was changing their policy. Finally, today Remind was able to announce that there will not be any service disruption for users on Verizon wireless plans.

Today's announcement from Remind means that all U.S. users of Remind's free plan will be able to continue using the service as they always have.

Immersive Reader in Virtual Reality

Immersive Reader is one of my three favorite Microsoft products (the others others are Hacking STEM and Flipgrid). Today at the BETT Show I got to try a new implementation of Immersive Reader. That implementation is in virtual reality.

Immersive Reader in VR is a beta product. In fact, I was told by representatives of Microsoft that Immersive Reader in VR has only been shown to the public this week.

Immersive Reader in VR brings the experiences of Immersive Reader including line highlighting, syllable differentiation, and text read-aloud to a VR headset. According to the Microsoft employees that I spoke with today,  early trials of Immersive Reader in VR have proven to improve focus of readers by blocking out distractions. It has also been proven to make text accessible to readers who have previously been unable to access documents for a variety of reasons including vision.

One of the things that impressed me when I tried Immersive Reader in VR today was the ability to put up "walls" around the VR experience. Those walls were simple white walls that made the VR experience feel less enclosed that some other virtual reality experiences that I have tried. I generally start to feel trapped and unbalanced by VR experiences if I'm in them for more than a minute, I didn't feel that way when I implemented the "walls" option in the Immersive Reader in VR experience.

When Will It Be Available?
That was the question that I had for Microsoft's representatives today. They didn't have a firm date that they could share. I'll be sure to share it as soon as I know.