Saturday, 28 May 2011

Less known blogging and website platforms

Even if you have your own blog or website, you may want to try out something new and swap WordPress, Blogger, TypePad or Live Journal for some newer platform.
Less known
(used in the title of this post) is relative of course.

Here are some sites which offer services for bloggers or website creators. 
I have chosen only those sites which are free or offer a choice of a free basic account. They are listed in no particular order.

I'd like to recommend Weebly in the first place because it has a special version for education which lets you create a class website or blog with your student accounts. They can publish their projects, e-portfolios, homework on the site.
Editing of the page is very easy - you just drag and drop everything you need including photos, maps, videos, texts etc. I love the promise that there are no advertisements on your site.

Lifeyo is another blog building platform with an intuitive interface which can be used with students. I quote Richard Byrne from  Free Technology for Teachers: "LIFEYO's ease of use makes it easy to get students creating websites."
What is truly great is the absence of advertisements on your blog. It is also suitable for creating and publishing your portfolio.

Jimdo is a site which offers a private account for free with the storage of 500 MB.
I quote ReadWriteWeb: "One of the easiest tools we've seen for creating truly multimedia sites!"
There is a video tutorial of how to make a website in minutes. One of the best features of Jimdo is the wide choice of languages to choose from. This makes it possible to use a Jimdo-hosted website for the speakers of other languages, not only English.

The site which looks really cool is Jux which combines Open Source and Creative Commons principles. It requires no knowledge of HTML or other coding but it lets you play with themes, templates, widgets etc.
I quote the website: "Everything on the site is a widget than can be dragged, dropped, moved and reshaped willy-nilly. The basic site widgets include a text box, an image, a page title, a site title, etc."

SnapPages is somewhat similar to the Jux website. You build your site by dragging and dropping page elements and widgets. The basic account is free and offers a storage of 1 GB which is more than enough for a personal website.

A fast and free website building is promised by Webnode. It says "Even your grandma can do it!" which may encourage beginners to try this platform out.
There are hundreds of really beautiful templates to choose from. You can create photo galleries, polls, forums and add plenty of gadgets and widgets.

Sub Hub Lite is another web platform for creating your personal blog or website. It promises an easy and fast way of setting up a fully customizable website.

hPage is a totally free website building platform. It has a long list of features and many extras. You can choose between English or German to use on your site.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Creating personalized seals (and having fun)

The current school year is approaching its end and in many schools teachers are struggling to keep students' minds on classroom work. Why not have some fun instead of cramming their heads with grammar rules?

I have been using the seal generator for some time and it has always brought joy because it is a creative and rewarding activity.

The seal maker is a web tool on the website which offers different tools for making funny images, signs, graphics and badges.

My favourite is the seal maker which lets you generate a personal seal which you can use on your documents, projects, homework, letters, webpages etc. Students love creating their own seals and proudly present them to their classmates.

Look at the seals made by three 15-year-old students. If you can get into the computer lab, you can have a whole lesson of fun letting your students make their personalized seals and voting for the best one at the end of the lesson.  You can also ask them to make a seal at home and send it to you or put it on their homework.

When you begin, you will need to explain some basic things about formatting options but usually students cope with such tasks very easily. Let them experiment, let them find the best design and colours and when they have finished, ask them to save their seal (it will be saved as a gif image). After that use it as you wish.

A lot of fun for everyone!

For more fun activities visit another of my favourite websites - the website and make tons of humorous and entertaining signs and images, e.g.:

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Teaching food vocabulary with artist drawn recipes: They Draw And Cook

Since I first came across the website They draw and cook, I have often visited it and always found new and awesome picture recipes drawn by different artists from all parts of the world - India, USA, Brazil, Russia, Spain, France, Mexico and many more.

Not only are the recipes beautifully presented and easy to follow (in case you are ready to cook some new dish) but they can also be effectively used in teaching food vocabulary serving as attractive flashcards.

Take, for instance, the recipe Vegetable Stock by Nate Padavick.

One of the comments reads as follows:
Great color palette, nice 'hand-stamped' texture, appealing shapes, and a reminder to compost (nice touch).
The recipe contains the names of vegetables - onion, mushroom, carrot, turnip, tomato, squash, celery, asparagus, leek, parsley etc.
There are a few cooking verbs - chop, boil, simmer, strain etc.

Students learn the vocabulary in a fun way and they can also try out the recipe at home which is a great added value to the lesson. In addition, they can get inspired to draw their own recipe and share it with their classmates!

The site hosts a fantastic variety of recipes and you can search for a specific food or dish name. I can only imagine what a treasure this site must be to the teachers of cooking classes!

More brilliant recipes (click to zoom)

If you love great design and marvellous illustration, you will love the site and use it to your advantage as a teacher.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Homework sent in as an audio file

I have a group of very bright students who love trying out new things. This time it was homework recorded online and sent in for me to evaluate.

For recording the speech, I chose the simplest tool on the web - Vocaroo. It is seldom mentioned when different audio recording programs are discussed but it is absolutely perfect for beginners or young students. There are no buttons, no frills, no nothing, just a box which you click to record. And yes, the only thing you need is a mike. The tool does everything itself and at the end you just send the file to an e-mail address. (In this case, students sent their files to me.) The file can also be downloaded and it can be embedded which I am going to do here. Awesome!

For this homework my 16-year-old students had to write and record the story My first date because we are studying the theme Relationships. They were allowed to tell the truth or invent the story, and here is one of the stories told by a boy who is an avid gamer.

Updated on December 1, 2011. Just learned that Vocaroo does not keep the recorded files for long (my guess is half a year), this and many other files recorded by my students have been removed. I was not smart enough to download them or save in some other way. Disappointed.........