Saturday, October 18, 2008

Zuiprezi -- Breaking the linear fetters of traditional presentation

Zuiprezi seems like a boon to the mind which wearies of endless powerpoint-type presentations, or (heaven forbid I say it!), linear text-heavy mediums of any kind!

I'm aching to try out Zuiprezi myself. I have a feeling that it will immediately speak to many students, and gradually gain everyone else as converts. It is tremendously intuitive: Zuiprezi has the research-backed logic of a mindmapping tool, and brings Web2.0's multitude of possibilities for media, design, and openness to bear on previously wordy-heavy cognitive maps.

What I am really enthused about is how this tool could make the content of any presentation accessible to a far greater number of people. When I say accessible, I mean the following: a person can trace connections and meaning at his own speed through (most) of the sample presentations, and also follow the predestined path of the presentation's creator.

I like to put myself back in the shoes of that younger me, that somewhat introverted bookwork whose cognitive centers were on overload (and consequently, the fritz) during many a science class. I wager that my capitulation to the "not-a-science-guy" identity was less a nod to fate than to the realization that those who "got it" were making connections in their heads that weren't easily teachable. At least not via the routes of being a decent student, doing your work, studying, and getting extra help.

Might Zuiprezi (or any non-linear presentational medium) have helped? Have given me insight to those nuances I was missing, the connections I was not making, as well as let me then grow closer to the learning objectives of the unit?

Well, here's hoping I get a chance to try out Zuiprezi soon, and see if it opens up some of those dark, liminal learning boundaries for my language learners.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Vuvox and Marlene Dietrich

Unfortunately, some of the features (adding text) were not accessible on Vuvox, so this is not much of a learning object, but fun nonetheless--

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Redewendung: "Ich bin ganz aus dem Häuschen!"

\Happy -- Froh\

I wonder if there is a way to sneak an actual umlaut, ä vs ae?

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Classroom Management

During my daily feed-reading session, I came across Dan Meyer's cool vlogs. The one below on classroom management hit home. My reflex is, fortunately, decidedly *not* to lay down the law, (which carries its own problems). But the analogy to the first-year cop is spot-on. I was lucky to be in a teacher prep program, and to have a cooperating teacher, who taught me that an ethic of care goes hand-in-hand with classroom management. Nonetheless, it often seems, at the beginning, that you are teetering on the Tipping Point into Chaos and the state of You'll-Never-Get-The-Class-Back-Now! Thankfully, I've never had a "bad kid", and of course: there's no such student. (Knock on wood.)

On a tangential issue: I am a little miffed at Mr. Meyer, seeing as that I do like cop shows a lot and would likely enjoy The Wired. Will likely enjoy it, since I added it to an already prallgefüllt Netflix queue. And I don't have the time!

dy/av : 006 : carver's classroom management from Dan Meyer on Vimeo.

Thursday, July 24, 2008


As a student teacher this spring, I used Quizlet twice, and would have done so regularly if I had come across it sooner. There are countless "quiz" applications out there; I happen to find this one simple yet effective. If you acknowledge that it is not possible to learn all vocabulary in an organic, holistic fashion (at least in regards to set curricula and tests in school), then this flashcard/quiz application is an excellent tool to maximize and personalize study time. I'd like to have a set horizon of expectation when I say to students, "There will be a vocabulary test. Make sure you study!"

The Scatter-Game version is embeddable:

Die Werbung (from Komm Mit 3, Kapitel 7-1) by me

Die Presse by ali125

Zemanta Pixie

Friday, July 18, 2008

Dipity Timeline Example

Viygo: Another Interesting Timeline Web Application

Timelines in the Language Classroom

In the entries below, I have embedded timelines of the lives of Einstein and Frederick the Great that were created by individuals on Timeline web applications such as this another obvious choice to augment the learning experience during language class blogging.

In the target language, students can create all sorts of products. Most interesting, I think, would be timelines which supplement a written piece by the student. And of course they do not need to be chronologies of "Famous Germans", but can be about the student's own life, family and friends.
Zemanta Pixie

Timeline of Frederich dem Grossen

Albert Einstein Timeline

Sketchbook Berlin: Using Graphic Novels in the Language Classroom

As a placeholder for a future, proper reflection on the subject, I would like to mention the graphic novel Sketchbook Berlin, written and drawn by two German artists, as well as the modest wiki at pbwiki which students of mine worked on 2 years ago.

Comiqs as a Blogging Assignment II

Imagine the simple web-based picture-comic (in the entry of mine below) as a prompt for a blog entry assignment in a foreign language class. While not terribly innovative, this comic-as-prompt has the virtue of setting up the assignment visually as well as linguistically. But what intrigues me more about comic webtools such as Comiq (in respect to blogging in the language classroom) is that "blog entries" could easily be a comic. With such tools, there is no need for writing assignments to be limited to purely linguistic assessments of performance....
A tool such as Comiqs allows for the meaningful, contextualized assessment of telling a story. Comiqs is user-friendly, so such an assignment could be an assignment with some frequency throughout the year. And it is easy to embed in a blog....
And frankly, the "fun" format does not mean that the requirements need to "fudge" on the writing aspect. There could/should be as much length in words to a mini-comic as to a mini blog-entry (or journal or essay question) on the topic of "How early should the school day begin?" The difference is that the grading rubric would ask students to use images which reinforce the ideas they wish to bring across, and to translate the "blog entry" into an entertaining story which the rest of the class could read and discuss.
Why not have students create different learning objects in the target language and post them on their blogs?
(Do pardon the broad-sweeping statements. Of course, the devil and the success is in the planning and preparation.) However, since it is so easy to embed media and other applications in blogs, why not use this to one's advantage as a language teacher? Creating comics, timelines, mashups: these are all authentic tasks which can be carried out in the target language.

Zemanta Pixie

Comiqs as a Blogging Assignment

Comics as Prompts, Assessments, or Entries for a World Language Blog from herrgraff on Comiqs

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Diigolet: Use in Schools?

As I re-read today Miguel Guhlin's articles on the wide spectrum of possibilities which diigo opens up to educators, I wondered if the superbookmarklet diigolet can really be dragged by any user up to the bookmark toolbar? Are there any security settings schools could have in place which do not allow one to do so, or to sign into diigo once it is in the toolbar?

A simple question of course. And ideally, one would get the diigo toolbar installed in every machine! Assuming that the diigo toolbar is not installed, however, the genius/ease of using diigo as a collaborative learning and teaching tool within school walls would hinge on the diigolet.

Or? Am I too pessimistic? The many collaborative and organizational aspects of diigo are things to be excited about. Out of pure fried brain-circuitry, I just realized that diigo does take full screenshots, via Webslides, of the pages you bookmark and incorporate into a list. As far as I understand, these are permanent resources within one's diigo account, even if the websites change.

The list function itself is excellent. The concept is very similar to the aggregator I am (still) quite fond of, Second Brain. And diigo's full screenshots are, well, full in comparison. (Second Brain does aggregate one's other accounts, Google Reader, YouTube, ZohoDocs, etc; and like diigo, SB has an open-ended mission to truly organize one's online life.)

I digress: but as I catch up to my Apture experimenting, I intend to try out some of Miguel Guhlin's suggestions for diigo.

Lingro Flashcard Function

Just a brief note: the Lingro flashcard function is excellent. A substantial tool for reading in a foreign language online. The user can study the words they have looked up via Lingro, and it's easy to make lists for separate flash-card games. (Everytime you click on a word on a lingro-activated page, the pop-up with the definition gives you the option of saving the word to a specific list; e.g. "pasttime", "television", etc. Experiment #3: Grammar, das versus dass

Learn languages - language quiz

I'm fond of this quiz simply because das/dass is such a sticky grammar point. (Though it is hard to suss out whether a student doesn't heed spelling themselves much, or whether they haven't learned the significant differences in the uses of das and dass.

I like this quiz, but I wish (from a pedagogical perspective) that it included more tools and supports for students who intermediate language learners, but less-than-enthusiastic readers. Two ideas I can think of are quick pop-up, double-click look-up function for any words one doesn't know, and pictures/illustrations to bolster one's understanding of the linguistic information.

That being said, I have yet to make a quiz of my own using I need to discover what tools they offer!

Medium/Intermediate Example of a quiz

Learn languages - language quiz

Exploring quizzes -- Part I

Learn languages - language quiz

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Apture: The Missing Cog in the Language Learner's Blog?

Happening on Apture was a happy accident.

"A rich multimedia experience and linking platform for the web," Apture supercharges almost any blogging platform. Anywhere on my blog where you see a hyperlink accompanied by a book+bookmark symbol is an example of an Apture hyperlink. Within a blog entry (=without being routed to another page), readers can access links of all sorts, including music and video. Within the same page, a window appears with the link chosen by the blog author.

The ramifications are staggering. Apture makes citing/quoting/referencing in the blog format very user-friendly. From what I understand, Apture works on the majority of blogging platforms, and aims to be compatible with all of them. (User-friendly times 2.) But more importantly, Apture is transformative: how interesting would it be if all media outlets and all bloggers vowed to cite their sources by incorporating Apture into their websites....

From any perspective, the prospect of quick access to sources (primary and otherwise) is a way to foster honest interaction with information as well as promote better critical thinking skills.

For blogging in the language classroom, though, Apture has the virtue of letting student/end-user-X aggregate all sorts of media in one spot.

Over the next few days, I am going to post some examples of what I think such blog entries might look like. As I do this, I will try to consider other issues that dovetail with considerations of blogging in education: assessment, modelling and/or correcting of grammar and vocabulary usage, active learning, motivation, and others. I would love to hear others' comments and ideas!

As well, I intend to revisit Konrad Glogowski's blog more intently and reflect on what Growing a Blog in a language classroom might look like.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Netvibes: Herr Graff's Page

In the hope of being gainfully employed this fall (hint!), I quickly set-up a Netvibes page, and am in the process of populating it with German-language widgets and assorted goodies that might well be helpful this fall....

If you have suggestions, do let me know!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

My Dream Team: Web 2.0 Tools for the Language Classroom (Proposal One Draft One)

A proposal for a multimedia lab or any set of computers used by world language teachers:

1. Browser: Flock or Firefox. Why?:
a) On the one hand, students need reliable tools, and the time to get acquainted with them. A class should choose one browser: familiarity with one user-friendly, ever-developing browser will breed students' confidence as technology-users, not their contempt.

b) Flock has the advantage of integrating many tools into its own makeup. The teacher could guide the class in integrating their blogs, RSS-Feeds, Favorite Sites, etc, into the browser. Indeed, the best situation would be a school-version of Flock, pre-loaded with settings which classes require. (Compare this school-attuned idea with the Flock Eco-Edition, which I have on my computer.)

2 Language Tools:
a) My top choice: Lingro . Why? It's an open-content web-application which hyperlinks each word on a page to a dictionary for easy look-up. Why is this app so cool and imminently useful, when (as I recall) similar apps exist? Here are a few reasons:
1) When the browser has the Lingro plug-in (Lingro currently supports Firefox, Safari and Opera), then the translation pops up in a small window on the same page (quick, easy, user-friendly). One-click on the button [lingro! this page], and the student has a hyperlinked page before him.
2) The translations are simple and discrete, usually just one word (thus far as I have explored the plug-in). This makes the decision-making much easier on the student. I have yet to explore how Lingro works with very idiomatic, idiosyncratic expressions, though.
3) Lingro claims to remember which words you look up. For a short text with target-, to-be-learned vocabulary, such a feature would be useful as a study tool. (I assume there is a self-check/self-quiz feature that will work hand-in-hand with this capability, allowing students to review before a test, for example.
b) not Babelfish . Consistent, guided use of will help students learn and use vocabulary more efficiently and more on-target (which, I insist, is an adequate adverbial phrase.)

c) Hyperwords: a web application and browser plug-in which is almost as versatile as Lingro seems to be. With Hyperwords, the user highlights word(s), right-clicks, and is given a multitude of translation- and research-choices. I cannot help but think that all school computer labs should install this plug-in in their browsers.

3. A Google Account: giving access to GMail, Blogger, and GoogleReader. A student population which reads and sorts email productively, learns to participate in a community- and civic-minded blogging culture, and productively organize research and/or personal interest via a RSS-Feed Reader such as GoogleReader, is prepared for college, the workforce, and living in a digital age.

4. Blogger: Why not begin to foster a learning community online even in the first year of a language (I have not taught middle school; I have in mind a high school audience when I think about blogging in language classes.) By Chapter 6 of Komm Mit I, a German textbook, the amount of writing demanded spikes suddenly. Why not begin to transfer these assignments to a more contemporary medium?
Granted: the "blogging" done in the first or second year would not be astonishingly substantive. But: do we really know what the results would be? If part of a student's "blogging grade" included the frequency and quality of comments on classmates' blogs, most students will warm to the medium for the sake of the report card. There is nothing wrong with that. At the end of 2 years of (say: weekly) blogging, I wager that the students will emerge much more proficient both in Web 2.0 technologies and the language they study than they would have otherwise.
One comment re: cyber-safety. Each blog could be set to only be read by the members of the class (via emails). But as well: there are many blogging platforms devoted to education: Edublogs, 21classes, and others.

5. Diigo: Social Bookmarking and Web-Highlighting. Though is ubiquitous, diigo is the better research tool and allows for more end-user interaction. It is the better tool for education, and for the students to take with them to college.

Especially as a German teacher, I have a number of avenues for finding partner-schools and -classrooms in Germany to work with. Why not have networked penpals via, which invites any group to form their own cyber-community. (In this context, I believe Nings serve the same purpose.)
Group.s acts as a social aggregator. Students could get acquainted in a more authentic format, but one where the teacher(s) had oversight. How this could be meaningfully integrated into class time is a necessary question, but the potential for types of Project Based Learning offer themselves up: especially as group.s also has an integrated wiki application.

7. Audacity: Freeware for recording audio. Upload to a school server and/or to individual student accounts on an aggregator, such as Second Brain.

8. Second Brain: Teach students how to aggregate schoolwork and -research, as well as personal interests in one place. A type of Personal Learning Environment.

9. Microsoft Photo Story 3; or Vuvox (currently in beta-testing): teach students to work with the language in many forms, and work towards synthetic, more personalized assessments. Also an excellent avenue to teach about Fair Use Laws and other legal issues.

Blogged with the Flock Browser

Sunday, June 8, 2008

RTL & Encouraging the Exploration of Web 2.0 for Language Learning Purposes

As a Web2.0-enthusiast (who is gradually becoming a rabid fan), I find it exciting to be am Puls der Zeit, to know that I am taking part in some of the most current trends in information organization.

As a German teacher (and one who aspires to be gainfully employed this fall!), I like to reflect on educational technology in the context of language learning. In general, I think a learning environment should should have plenty of stable anchors in set curriculum, strategies, and rules, but be open and fluid enough to send out just as many feelers into the changing present (the harbinger--forgive the weak metaphors--of the future.)

Calling on Web2.0 technologies from the middle school onward is called for: schools should play a heavy part in helping students to become responsible digital citizens. Yet...:

I cannot help but get easily distracted myself when on Facebook, to take up the most dominant example. How can I expect students not to be distracted by status updates and new profile pics of their friends? I can't. The plethora of distractions within Facebook is too strong a deterent to productivity -- within the confines of school time, when teachers have the obligation to facilitate exciting *and* productive lessons.

(Homework might be another issue. UdutuTeach and SuperCool School
are two Online Learning platforms fully integrated with Facebook. To be more precise, I believe that SuperCool School was developed specifically for Facebook. It is a positive change if/when school can address and communicate with students in relevant ways that make ideas stick.... The idea of a PLE, a Personal Learning Environment, is indeed an exciting one. But I am not sure if Facebook can ever become a platform which is harmonious with teachers' concept of homework, either.)...

More on Web 2.0 and language learning soon, with specific examples for language learning....

Thursday, May 29, 2008 : first impressions

From's about page: is a language project by Andreas Schroeter, Thomas Schroeter and Patrick Uecker. The idea has been on Andreas' mind for quite some time. During his high school and university years he lived in Canada, France, Sweden and the USA. He noticed that just knowing the exact translation often doesn't really help. You really need to "live" the language to come up with the right word. Thomas and Andreas have been collecting dictionaries from different languages for a long time. Putting the things together was just a natural step: Starting a portal where language lovers can meet and exchange their ideas and learn languages from each other....

Though I have only perused it for a quarter of an hour, I think is a platform that I will return to often. The kicker will be how well the site's test and quiz applications work and how they compare to popular and readily-available offerings, such as Quia. In my opinion, the functionality of the quiz-widget is also of utmost importance: How much can be accomplished in the embedded widget? Is the tool useful and practical for a language teacher who has only limited computer resources at his/her school?

Ignoring the question of technology resources within a school, I think it'd be wonderful if any student could turn to this platform to find le mot juste for any number of contexts where students pick a word out of the dictionary and use it auf gut Glück. Of course, even the best of tools require that the user has the wherewithal and desire to navigate towards the right answer. There is no panacea for a student stuck who doesn't care about the outcome of their writing.

However, there's the rub and the exciting part about Web2.0: wouldn't there be more "language lovers" among the general population if the tools and the networking-possibilities for learning the language existed and were incorporated as a part of class instruction? With some well-planned, structured hours in the computer- or language-lab of your school, in which students register on this site and explore it (here: teacher must structure this time such that a goal is reached), you might well have encouraged everyone in the class to become more independent and responsible in their language learning. Not only will you have admonished them not to Babblefish their essay, but you will have given them the tools to become competent users of the language on their own merits.

More on as I continue to explore it....

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Killerpilze - Liebmichhassmich

Killerpilze - "Killer Mushrooms" - Popular German band (currently, not a decade ago.) This song is ideal for classroom use: visually, the music video conveys a (fairly) recognizable narrative. (Depending on the student group, the teacher might want to point out that this date-show format is harkening back to those of the 80s/early 90s.) The lead singer enunciates the words clearly, and the words themselves are "safe" -- there are no curse words, references to sex acts, etc.

Sunday, May 18, 2008