Thursday, 25 September 2008

Video Dictionary 2.0

I've just been having a look at Wordia which is a wonderful new dictionary site. The entries are all video clips submitted by ... well anyone!
It's a bit like a YouTube video dictionary. I've just been having a quick browse and I love it. Great site for native and non native speakers of English. Also great collection of different accents. Even a few 'celebrities' thrown in!


Marvelous. Just love it.

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Best

Nik Peachey

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Drama Scripts for EFL ESL Students

Finding simple free drama scripts that we can use with EFL / ESL students can be something of a challenge, but I've just found a virtual (forgive the pun) gold mine of them on the Education World website.
They not only provide free downloadable versions of the scripts, but there is also a basic lesson plan with each one and some suggestions for vocabulary words students will need and follow up questions to ask the students.


The scripts are probably best suited for young learners or teens, but you might find something for adults too, as I haven't had time to look through them all.

Education World
has been around for years and it's easy sometimes to overlook sites like this because we are so focused on what's new, but the site really is worth checking out and has a real wealth of free materials.
Hope you enjoy it.

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Nik Peachey

Monday, 22 September 2008

Bring Your Kids Drawings to Life

I've just been playing around with a really nice site for kids. It's called Shidonni and it is similar to a paint program and allows kids to draw animals etc. The difference with this though is that once they have drawn an animal they then click a button and it comes to life!

There's more though. They can also draw items of food to put in the animal's fridge and draw habitat for it to live in. If that's not enough they can even play games of snakes and ladders with their animal and visit other planets where other students have created their own animals. So it's bit like a paint version of Spore for young kids.
I'm sure their must be loads of educational and language development uses we can put this to, so I'll be getting my thinking hat on. Until then I hope you enjoy getting your kids to create their own animals.

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Best

Nik Peachey

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

A Web Browser Designed for Kids

This is something I think I'll be trying out with my own daughter. It's a web browser designed only to access 'safe' websites. It's made by KidZui and there is the choice of a free version or you can have a membership subscription. The free version gives you reports on what your kids are using the browser for and what sites they are looking at.
The subscription version gives you the same but a bit more detail. It also gives you kids access to more accessories and Zui clothes!! (Think I'll go for the free option)

Anyway, if you want your kids to have access to 800,000 safe websites without having to look over their shoulder the whole time, then this looks like a good choice. Runs on PC and MAC.

Hope you enjoy it.

Best

Nik Peachey

Monday, 15 September 2008

How to Use Gmail

I've just seen that ALISON are offering a free and certificated course on how to use GMail.

I've never been a great fan of GMail and perhaps that's because I've never really put the time into learning how to use it properly.

Anyway, this is a free course, but students do need to register. It's a good way though to get students learning something in English and helping them to improve their IT skills at the same time. Most of ALISON's courses are quite media rich with sound and interaction, so this could be a motivating language learning experience too.

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Best

Nik Peachey

Friday, 12 September 2008

Autonomous Learning for EFL ESL Students

Well this news posting is actually about one of my own sites called Daily English Activities and this is a new site that I have launched to help EFL and ESL students develop their English language skills through online tasks.


I've tried to mix the tasks between activities that are 'made for' EFL ESL and ones that exploit generic websites. I've also tried to make these things that students could do every day.
So far the site is off to a good start with 9 activities up in the first week, the most popular of which is Exercise Your Ears with Authentic Film Clips.


So far the majority of the visitors seem to be teachers (80%) rather than learners (16%) but at this stage I'm happy with that as I think the site will be a useful tool for teachers wanting to set homework or for teachers wanting quick activities to print up for their students to do in a media centre or computer lab ( I've included a print as PDF function to make this easier)
To see a list of all the activities of the site so far please check out the sitemap and if you know of any EFL ESL teachers or students please send point them in my direction.

Activities so far:
Many thanks and best wishes

Nik Peachey

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Publishing Multimedia Projects

I'm always looking for interesting free tools for multimedia project work and I recently stumbled across a very nice one called Museum Box. It describes itself as providing 'the tools for you to build up an argument or description of an event, person or historical period by placing items in a virtual box".

To use the site you need first to collect up your various media. You can upload videos , images , audio files, collect links and add documents.

All of these are uploaded to sectioned boxes, and each section of the box is a cube with 6 sides to which you can add your media.


When the box is finished you can publish and share the results and users can view the different sections of the box.
I think this is a wonderful idea and a great way of publishing your students' work. There are already quite a collection of boxes on the site, which students might find interesting.

The projects don't have to be historical, you could create a box with a section for each member of your class, or students could create boxes about their local city or environmental problems.

Hope you enjoy this and find it useful.

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Best

Nik Peachey

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Listening Dictation Puzzles fo EFL ESL

I've just been playing with yet another beta site Audio Puzzler. The site has a small but growing collection of novel dictation puzzles. The audio files are displayed as small balloons which the user clicks on. They then hear the text and type in the words. Once they have done this they have to drag the text into the correct order.
This is a nice variation on the standard dictation activity , because it demands that students not only recognise the words, but can make sense of the text.

Audio Puzzler is part of a research project at the Georgia Institute of Technology and they are keen to receive feedback from anyone who tries the puzzles.

Let's hope this keeps developing as it looks like a really useful tool to help EFL ESL students develop their listening abilities.

Hope you enjoy this.

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Best

Nik Peachey

AI and Chat Bots for EFL ESL

I've always been fascinated by AI since I saw the Stanley Kubric / Steven Spielberg film by that name some years ago. There used to be a fantastic chat bot on the website for the movie (which is now gone) that I developed a lesson around for a group of students in Morocco. ( A chat bot is a virtual person that you can type text to and get answers)


That's why I was so delighted to find Virsona. The site is still very much in development, but does have a virtual Abraham Lincoln that you or your students can chat with and other virtual personalities are being developed (including Marilyn Monroe and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis).

The wonderful thing about Virsona though is that you can create your own chat bot quite simply, by registering and then adding information and training the bot to answer questions that it might get asked.

There are quite a few ways of adding information to the chat bot's log. You can either do this in the form of diary entries, uploading files or typing in questions and answers.
I've already made a start on a virtual Nik Peachey!
This is great language practice for students and a bit of fun too.

Related links:
Hope you enjoy it.

Best

Nik Peachey

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

A Virtual World for Teens

New 3D virtual worlds seem to be appearing almost everyday at the moment and here's another one. It's called Hangout and is still in private beta at the moment, so if you want to have a look around you'll need to apply for an invitation.

This one claims to be designed for teens and if you watch the video on the homepage, it does look as though it will appeal to that age group.

It looks like each person will be able to have their own room which they will customise. The graphics look nice and there's a good level of customisation of the various rooms. They are boasting both voice and text chat and the ability to create audio playlists and videos in the rooms.

It doesn't say yet if it will be free, but there is mention of credit card payments on the terms of use, though this might not be for membership.

The terms of use also say that user between 13 and 17 need to get their parents approval to register, so hopefully they are taking security seriously.

Anyway, this could be one to watch if you're looking for an alternative to Second Life.

Related links:
Best

Nik Peachey

Friday, 5 September 2008

Educational Games That Really Are Fun

It's often been a criticism of many attempts to make MMORPG computer games educational, that when that happens the fun goes. I have to say that it is often the case, but I think Power Up is an exception.

Power up is an educational computer game based around the concept of helping students to understand the need for clean energy. It takes the scenario of a planet ( set in the future) which needs rescuing.
The game looks and feels convincing and has some nice collaborative game play thrown in with some blasting of alien beasts. Students can play it alone or in multi-player mode. They are assigned missions that they have to complete and there is even use of some text to speech.

There are ready made lesson plans for teachers as well as a section for parents with advice on child safety.

The game is free, but you will have to download the software (200Mb!) which takes about 40Mins on a good broadband connection (and lots longer on a bad one)

It's great that the quality of these games is improving so much. This would be a really motivating game for students to play to learn more about clean energy and also good for intermediate + EFL ESL students as they would need to work at understanding the instructions to progress through the game. Also great to base a CLIL lesson around.

Definitely a serious game to be taken seriously. Hope you enjoy it.

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Nik Peachey

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Online Water Conservation Game

Educational games seem to be getting much better these days and Catchment Detox is a great example of that. It's an online game which you can play in the browser without any software downloads. It has similar gameplay to something like Zoo Tycoon, with students making budgeting decisions and deciding what areas to develop each year for 50 years.


Students have to manage a catchment area, protect the environment, develop the agricultural resources and balance this against conserving water and water quality.

There's a good video demo here showing how it's done: How to play



I had a go at this game and was fascinated. The language level is quite high, so non native speakers of English would need to be of a good level to cope without a lot of support. It would be a great way of developing their environment related vocabulary though.

It's great to see educational games are really being taken seriously in Australia. This is a great example of game that can really make students think, but still keep them motivated.

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Nik Peachey

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Education for the Global Economy

There's some really interesting new stuff on Big Think with a number of experts giving their opinions on the American education system and the need for reform.

A lot of the opinions are connected with internet use and how well state schools are preparing their students for the demands of the 21st century.

It's all very US focused, but does have resonance around the world, so well worth a look and could be useful to get your students thinking a bit.

Related links:

Best

Nik Peachey

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Multimedia Vocabulary Website

Babbel is one of the few really effective vocabulary building websites that I've seen on the web. It's actually a social network and can help you to make friends for language exchange etc, but the core of the site is it's interactive multimedia vocabulary building exercises.
These work with words being presented along with images and the sounds of the words. The exercises then move on to recognition of the sounds of the words and then you have to spell out the words for the images as you see and hear them. I know this all sounds a bit PPP (Present, Practice, Produce) but for EFL or MFL students working alone, I still think there is some value in this.
The site isn't only for learners of English, but also has exercises in Italian, French, German and Spanish.

This is one of the great strengths of the site because it draws on students from more languages, it makes it possible for students to connect with and practice their language with users from the target language.

As always it would be wise to be careful with this and to protect your students' privacy etc, but there certainly is some potential here and I do like the design of the vocabulary building activities so for that alone, it's worth the free registration.

Hope you enjoy it.

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Best

Nik Peachey

Create Your Avatar Image

Last week I wrote a posting with some teaching suggestions based around the Face your Manga website. Some people were understandably put off by the ability of the images to make some rude gestures.
I have since discovered the DoppelMe website which does a similar thing and could be a good alternative, though with this one you do have to dress your avatar from naked!

Seems like there's always a problem!

Related postings:
Best

Nik Peachey

Carbon Calculator

This is a really nicely designed site which helps you calculate the amount of carbon your family emits. The site looks great and is rich in vocabulary. It's probably more useful with more mature students as it asks for information like the amount you pay for your gas bill etc, but you do have the option to say you don't know.



The CO2 Calculator is aimed at a UK audience and asks for post code, but you can just type in a few letters and numbers at random and proceed.

Would be a useful tool for creating a Carbon league within your class, to see who produces the least carbon.

If you wanted to follow this up with some research. Wikipedia has some useful information on Greenhouse Gases.

Related links:
Hope your students enjoy this.

Best

Nik Peachey

Monday, 1 September 2008

Update on the Education Clip Library

I first wrote about the ECL (Education Clip Library) a few months back, but now I've finally got round to exploring it and I have to say it's a really impressive resource.

There are about 5k + clips at present and once you are registered there is an option to request a clip on a specific topic if you need one. The clips are arranged by age suitability ( 3 - 1 years or 11 - 19) as well as topic. All the clips I looked at also had a transcript underneath too, which is always really helpful for EFL and ESL students.

There is a good collection of Business related clips for anyone teaching Business English or Business skills.


There is also a huge range of historical footage going all the way back to the 1930's

The user interface is simple and clean and the clips stream pretty quickly and still look okay when played full screen.

On the whole this is a really nice resource for EFL , subject specific or CLIL lessons.

Apply for you password now as it may take a little while to get one.

Hope you enjoy it

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Best

Nik Peachey