Tuesday 27 October 2009

My New Favourite YouTube Tool

This is something that I spotted on Twitter a couple of days ago and have been playing with ever since. It's not actually a piece of software an app or even a site, it's a simple piece of code that you can use to change the URL of a YouTube video that transforms your page into a visual search tool that maps topics and relationships between videos.

So what it does, is it changes this dull YouTube page:

into this. A visual map of relayed videos. Each time you hover the mouse over one of the circles another set of related videos pop out and the you just click on a circle to play the video.

To appreciate the difference you really have to experience it, so here's the link to the original YouTube page with a video about Marrakesh
And now here's the 'warp'ed link with all the related videos which will start to show as you hover your mouse over them.

So how is it done?
Very simple, just replace the 'watch' in the URL to warp.swf

My Marrakesh video was at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e-FUM74WsQo
So I change that to http://www.youtube.com/warp.swf?v=e-FUM74WsQo

This should work with any YouTube video.

So what's so great about this?
Well taking my original video on Marrakesh, it now enables my students to search for related video information around the same topic very quickly and simply.

As you move from video to video you create a kind of breadcrumb trail of dots which you can then click on to navigate back through the video you have watched.
You can also click on the videos to play them full screen in your browser (nice feature IWB users)

This is a great way to get students researching information around a topic you want to discuss in class or just creating and exploring conceptual associations. You could do this in class if you have data projector and try to get students to explain the connections, like six degrees of seperations. For example, how did I start with avideo of Marrakesh and end up with one of Shakira dancing?

I really enjoy this tool. It's also really handy for finding new music that's connected to the music you already like. Just 'warp' a music video from YouTube that you like and start exploring the connections.

This tool will though access all and any YouTube videos, so keep that in mind when you consider using it with your students, especially younger ones.

Hope you enjoy this.

Related links:

Nik Peachey

Friday 23 October 2009

Finding a Language Exchange Partner

I've just spotted another language exchange website to add to a rapidly growing list of these sites. Scrabbin is distinctive however, because it is one of the simplest I've seen and because it also offers people the chance to arrange face 2 face events and meetings.

It's very simple and free, you just create a profile, log in and then search for a suitable partner to exchange languages with.

When you create your profile you specify the kind of exchange you want to have, i.e. voice, email and / or face to face.

You then browse the profiles of the people who speak the language you want to learn and leave them a message to see if they want to partner you.

All very simple stuff. Does it work in terms of language learning? Well I guess that depeds on you and the partner you find, but at least it's a simple free way to find someone to practice using the language you want to learn with.

There doesn't seem to be any age restriction on the site and they do seem to take privacy quite seriously, but if you recommend this to your students I would still be very careful to make sure they know not to share personal information regarding their address etc and would caution against any one to one face to face meetings.

Hope you find Scrabbin useful.

Related links:


Nik Peachey

Wednesday 21 October 2009

Create Quick Online Polls

Vorbeo must be one of the quickest and easiest poll creators I've ever seen. All you need to do is to go to there website at: http://vorbeo.com/

Type in your question add different answers each one on a new line, choose your colour and size etc. As you do that, a code is generated lower down on the page.

When you are ready you simply copy the code into your web page or blog and publish it.

Users simply click on their answer and click vote and they are taken to a new page to see the results. try this one to see how it works:

Do you use technology in your classroom?
Yes - every day
Yes - sometimes
No - never
No - not very often
No but I get my students to use it outside the classroom

This is really no frills stuff, but it is simple, quick and easy and also free. You don't even need to register or part with your email address. All user responses are anonymous.

This is a great tool to use with students
  • All responses are anonymous so you can use this to get some honest feedback on your teaching if you are doing action research.
  • You can create opinion polls based on videos from YouTube (just embed the video and poll questions in your blog page) or text.
  • You can get students to create their own research polls for their peers and then discuss the results in class.
  • You can use it to get some feedback on your blog.
  • Students who write blogs can use it to get quick responses from readers.
  • You could even use it as a comprehension check for online text audio or video activities that you create for your students.
You can create a number of questions and embed the code for each one in the page, so you aren't limited to just one question, but you are limited in terms of giving students some response to their answer. They will only see how other people have responded so they won't know whether they are right or wrong.

I think this is a great simple tool that is really easy to use. I hope you find a good use for it. So what do you think?

Will you use Vorbeo

Related links:

Nik Peachey

Friday 9 October 2009

Using Movie Soundtracks in the EFL ESL Classroom

Using films and movies in class is a great way to encourage students to learn more language, so if you use them a lot then this site will be handy for you.

It's called MoMupl and it searches a database of movie sound tracks to help you find all the songs and music from films. You just type in the title of the movie and then click on the results to get a full list of the music tracks from that movie

You can then just play any of the tracks you want to hear in the browser.

This is a great tool that you can combine with the work you do on movies. Music is a very strong aid to memory, so you can use the music to prompt students to remember or it can just enhance the atmosphere of your lesson.

You can use this with students in a number of ways.
  • Find the sound track for a movie your students have been studying and play different tracks, then ask if they can remember what was happening in the part of the movie when this music was playing.
  • Use sounds tracks before the students watch the movie. Play them various clips and see what they can predict about the movie from the music. Get the students to create their own movie scenario from the different tracks.
  • Get students to find a sound clip from their favourite movie and tell others about it in class.
  • Use sound tracks from movies as the back ground for story telling.
  • Give students some exerts from movie scripts (download scripts from Drew's Script-O-Rama). Get them to read 4 or 5 short dialogues then play them a short exert from a sound track and see if they can match the sound track to the movie script.
I like MoMupl because it combines couple of my passions (music and film) and even if you don't use it with your students, it's still useful for finding out who it was that wrote the music you liked in the film that you watched.

I hope you find it useful.

Related links:

Nik Peachey

Thursday 8 October 2009

Crazy Comparatives & Superlatives

I have to say that I used to dread teaching comparatives and superlatives and always found it really hard to think of something original to get my students interested, so when I saw this site I was really delighted. It's not only quite funny, but has some excellent materials for covering what can be a really dull language point.

The site is called the Universal Record Database and it is a collection of user generated and very unofficial world records. Anyone can go on the site and create their own world record. As proof they simply add an image or a video of themselves creating the record.

Here's a few examples:

Most People Simultaneously Drinking Out Of A Pineapple

The widest tongue

Most Handshakes Elicted From A Dog In 30 Seconds

Most Women Named Wendy To Eat At A Wendy's

There are lots of ways to use the Universal Record Database with students.
  • Show them some images and videos and see if they can guess what the record was.
  • Tell them the type of record and see if the can guess the number or amount (e.g. how wide is the widest tongue)
  • Get students to think of their own crazy records and create a picture or video to upload to the site.
  • Create your own class records and try to get each students to have a record.
  • Get students to try to break one of the records from the site.
  • Get students to find their favourite record on the site or the one they think is funniest and share it with the class, or blog about it.
The Universal Record Database certainly wasn't made for educational purposes, so be careful to check for appropriacy according to your students, but I think it's a wonderful example of the kind of bizare things you can use from the web. I know my daughter was always fascinated by the Guinness Book of World Records, so I'm pretty sure students will enjoy this and it will liven up those dull comparatives and superlatives class.

Anyway, here's my favourite record, Tallest Tower Of Humans Wearing One Sock Each, Brushing Teeth And Listening To 'Thriller'.

I hope you find this useful and have a lot of fun with your students.

Here you can find more than 100 online activities for EFL and ESL students

Related links:


Nik Peachey

Tuesday 6 October 2009

Find Easy to Read Text for Lower Levels

I sometimes wonder why companies continue developing search engines when Google's dominance seems so complete, but every now and then I spot one that has a nice twist and that's the case with Twurdy.
Twurdy is actually based on Google, but it analyses Google results for readability, so it can help you to find more lower level texts for learners without you having to read through every result from Google to see if it's simple enough.

Just type in the topic of the text you need and click on your Twurdy type. You have a choice of three different Twurdy types. The differences are mainly speed (how fast you want your results) vs complexity (how thoroughly you want the results analysed) I would recommend choosing Twurdy with Pop as this will analyse the number of word on the page, length of sentences, number of syllables per word and also the popularity of the words in the text.

Getting more accurate results will save you time in the long run and even using Twurdy Pop isn't so slow.

The results will then be shown colour / shade coded and with a rating. Darker results are more complex texts and the lighter ones are easier. Then you just have to find one that your students will enjoy (or get them to find their own).

Twurdy is a great tool that can save you a lot of time if you are looking for authentic texts to use with lower level students. You could even let them find their own texts to replace the ones in your course book.

I hope it's useful for you.
Related links:

Nik Peachey

Thursday 1 October 2009

Translate Shakespeare 2 Text Lingo 4 Twitter??

If like me you struggle with text and SMS or even Twitter lingo then transL8it will surely be a handy tool for you.

Simply type the text you want to translate into the field and then click on translate it. Your text will then appear translated in the filed next to it.

Or should I say?

Simply typ d txt U wnt 2 transl8 in2 d feLd & thN clik on transl8 it. yor txt wiL thN apEr transL8d n d filed NXT 2 it.

The translation works both ways so you can also feed in text messages and then translate them back to 'standard' English.

I couldn't resist trying this out with some Shakespeare so I took a short snippet of text from Tamming of the Shrew and translated it to text lingo

  • Here's what I put in:

    See, how they kiss and court! Signior Lucentio,
    Here is my hand, and here I firmly vow
    Never to woo her no more, but do forswear her,
    As one unworthy all the former favours
    That I have fondly flatter'd her withal.
  • And this is what I got:

    c, how dey :-* & court! Signior Lucentio,
    hEr iz my h&, & hEr I firmly vow
    nevr 2 woo her n mo, bt do forswear her,
    az 1 unworthy aL d formR favRz
    dat I hav fondly flatterd her withal.
I think this is a great tool to use with students to make short texts or dialogue a bit more interesting.
  • You could have them try to figure out the code and rules of translation being applied, then translate some of their own statements.
  • You could prepare some of your own lingo texts for students to translate back.
  • You could translate headlines from the news.
  • You could Tweet them text using Twitter and get them to translate and Tweet you back
This is a fun tool that you can use so easily in so many ways to make dealing with text a bit more entertaining and engaging for students.

I hope you enjoy it.
Related links:

Nik Peachey