Thursday 19 April 2012

Digital Study Skills - Gist Reading

Studying and researching online is becoming an ever more important element of our digital skill set. I spend a lot of time reading online and skimming through numerous articles from journals and blogs, so I'm always keen to find useful tools which can assist me or my students in this and make the process more efficient.  One tool which I have just discovered and which I hope will help with this process is Cruxbot.
It's a very simple to use 'bookmarklet' tool (a bookmarklet is a button that you drag onto your browser bookmarks bar). To get the bookmarklet go to: click on the 'Cruxbot' image.

 Hold your mouse down while you drag it to the bookmarks bar on your browser.

Once the bookmarklet is installed just find an article that you want to read and then click on the bookmarklet (You can try this one on connectivism or this article from the BBC).

When you click on the bookmarklet it will analyse the text and provide you with a summary of the main points. It will also pull out some key words and terms from the article.

Clicking on the keywords will show them in the summary and re-summarise using those key words as the main focus.

You can also decide how many paragraphs you want in the summary  by using the slider at the bottom of the window.

For me, Cruxbot is a great tool for both teachers and students.
  • It can help you quickly get the gist of an article and help you decide if you want to read it in more depth. 
  • It can help your students create a framework of the article in their mind before reading in more depth and so aid understanding.
  • Students can see key words and terms in context to build a better understanding of them before they read.
Cruxbot is a valuable tool that I will continue to use myself and one that I feel can make digital reading more efficient and effective and help students engage with online text.

Lastly, I'd like to welcome Worth Ave Group as a new advertiser.

Related links:


Nik Peachey

Wednesday 18 April 2012

iPhone for Speaking Homework

Getting students to do speaking homework has always been quite a challenge, but for those students with smartphones we can now get them using free apps to practice and develop their speaking abilities. This speaking tasks requires the download of a free app called the VTR2 Video Recording Teleprompter from

The app acts as a teleprompter which scrolls a text across the screen of your devices and records you speaking as you read the text.

The app can be used on iPhone or an iPad with a camera. It's very simple to use. When you launch the app you see 3 buttons at the bottom of the interface. These are:
1. The video gallery icon which links to a collection of all the movies you make with it.
2. The 'Record' button, which starts the text scrolling and records you speaking.
3. The settings icon which enables you to control the speed and size of the text scrolling and change the text.

To get started, find a text that you want your students to read. I chose a poem as this is more suitable for reading out loud.

Go to the settings and scroll down to text. There you can replace the existing text with the one you or your students want to read.

Then then tap on 'Done'.

 Now go back to the launch screen and click on 'Record'. Read the text as it scrolls down the screen and then when it is finished click the 'Record' button again to stop it.

You can then click on discard to try again or 'Save' if you want to view your recording.

You need to give the recording a name and to save it.

You can then go to the gallery and watch and listen. From the gallery the videos can either be deleted or shared.

Tapping on the 'Share' button enables users to either send the recording as an email attachment or upload it to YouTube.

The video recordings export to email as .mov and are quite big files, so emailing them can be slow.

So, if you have a YouTube account for your class and they are confident enough, it might be good to get students uploading and sharing them there or on a blog.

How to use VTR2 with students
  • You can get them recording short poems or monologues from films. This is particularly effective if they have a model that they can compare their recording to so that they can try to improve.
  • You could get the students to record jokes to share so that they practice good timing and delivery.
  • You can get them to record speeches or quotes from famous people.
  • Try to get students listening to each other and praising the ones they like best.
  • Give students feedback on ow and where they can make improvements and get them to record again.
  • You can also get students to think about how they look when they are speaking, so that they think about some of the visual aspects of communication like eye contact, facial expression etc.
  • Try to keep an archive of your students recorded work so that both you and they can go back and look at earlier work to see improvements.
Most feedback on speaking activities is given by the teacher after the activity and it can be hard for students to remember or be aware of what they did wrong or right at the time, but using a tool like this students can really see and hear what's happening when they are speaking and you can really give them tangible feedback on their performance.

I hope you enjoy this and that your students find it a really useful way of improving their speaking skills.

Related links:


Nik Peachey