Alphabetimals

Are you looking for a fun yet effective way to teach your kids different alphabets? If yes, Alphabetimals is an amazing website to teach your kids about alphabets and animals at the same time – that’s where the word “alphabeti-mals” has been derived from. Your students can even type their names in Alphabetimals, or download free flash cards and coloring pages. On first glance I thought the site was just another ‘kiddie’ page without any real content or substance. However, a few clicks told another story. I found myself giggling at the well done illustrations and sound bytes of the letter, animal, and the animal sound. Yes, it is a learning site, and yes, it is a fun site – even for older children-like me.

Give the site a look. I don’t think you will be disappointed.

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Reading Bear

 

I found this new reading site that looks like a real ‘keeper’.  Reading Bear, a project of WatchKnowLearn.org, is a free program online to teach beginning readers vocabulary and concepts.

Reading Bear – is an educational project created by Wikipedia’s co-founder, Larry Sanger, that aims to teach young readers about vocabulary and the concepts of English. At the same time, the student is introduced to the main phonetic patterns of written English. All of this is done with the help of some creatively crafted media.

I recommend all  elementary teachers take a look at this great resource. It will be worth your while!

Teenage Liberation

I recently re-read a book that belonged to my daughter. As I remember, it was one of her favorites. She certainly quoted it enough. It was an eye opener fifteen years ago and I believe it’s even more potent and relevant today. ” The Teenage Liberation Handbook; How to Quit School & Get a Real Life & Education”  is a book I think every educator, administrator, classroom teacher, and parent should read. The author, Grace Llewellyn, has some very pointed things to say about our education system, not the least of which is that education is all about control, and not teaching. Ouch! While I did not entirely agree with everything the author said, it did, on nearly every page, make me think about the real message I was sending to my students.

I challenge you to give the book a try, and tell me what you think. Even if you think the premise is all smoke and mirrors, it is a good read and offers a different, and very compelling,  point of view that we should all be aware of. Just for the record: I thought it was a great book, and mostly right on target.

Connect with Book Trailers

Book TrailerTeachers are always looking for ways to interest and motovate students to read more. We know that students all to often judge the interest level of a book simply by the title or cover art, and miss the chance of a really good read. Of course, adults are guily of judging a book by it’s cover as well, but are exempt from this conversation because we really do know better.

‍Book trailers are often mentioned in both education and literary circles around the web. Book trailers are kin to movie trailers. Book trailers are short videos previewing the plot and characters of a book and can have a great impact on motovating viewer interest. I can not think of a better way to connect todays kids with books.

A great place to start connecting kids  to book trailers is Book Trailers for Readers. The wiki site even has instructions on how to create your own classroom book trailers. If you don’t check out this Wiki site you are not doing yourself any favors.

Icons Anyone?

Often, while updateing the school’s Wiki or web page, I find myself wanting a specialized icon or small graphic to highlight a point, article, or something new. Or, sometimes I just need something cutsie. With all the innovations in designing graphics, a huge number of high quality icons are now available on the web for free. However, finding the right one at the right time can be frustrating and time consuming. Luckily, I discovered a ‘just in time’ solution for that ‘just right’ graphic.

IconWanted lets you search a collection of almost 33,000 icons in 500 different icon sets. The choices range from classic generic to graphics that are down right creative, and whimsical. IconWanted also allows the very nice feature of downloading different sizes and formats of the icon.

If you find yourself needing that little something to spice up your online efforts I suggest you give IconWanted a try. You will not be sorry.

You Tube conversion tools

Our teachers often use ‘You Tube’ content for educational purposes.  Streaming video websites are such a big part education, it’s hard to remember a time when they didn’t exist. In many ways  these websites revolutionized our teaching practice – no longer do we have to download every single video we want to watch – it’s all right there!  But, sometimes, sending a link, embedding a video, or watching it right from You Tube is not enough, and we need the actual file, or only its soundtrack.  And when that happens, the default FLV file format rarely cuts it, or the teacher lacks the proper tools or expertise to ‘snag’ and convert to something more convenient. Below are a few down loaders-converters that make it easy as pie to download videos and convert them into almost every possible format.  I have used all four from time to time, but my favorite is FreeMake, if only because it’s an actual installed program.

Xenra is an easy-to-use web app which both downloads and converts YouTube videos into multiple formats. You can use it to either download whole videos, or extract entire audio tracks from YouTube videos.

ClipConverter is another excellent web app which can be used with multiple streaming video websites, not just YouTube. It can even convert or extract audio from video files you already have on your computer.

KeepTube is another download and convert service which you can use in multiple ways, although only with YouTube videos.

If web apps are not your cup of tea, and you like the feel of a good desktop app under your feet, this is the option for you. Freemake is a fantastic video converter and generally the one I use at home.

Can’t Live Without ?

I often interrupt working on the computer with a quick game of Solitaire. Mindlessly moving cards has a mind clearing effect and actually helps me focus on what I’m doing, or at least, that’s what I tell myself. The last game did get me thinking about what programs I simply couldn’t live without, not counting Solitaire of course.  I discounted school, or work, related applications like email, grade book, Office, or a web browser as ‘must have’ survival type software. With a cup of coffee, and another quick game, I concluded that there were, at minimum, two apps the loss of which would truly muddle the way I work.

Evernote and Dropbox are two free web apps that allow me to collect, save, share, and later organize any matter of thoughts, notes, web pages, pictures, or anything really, from any computer or smart phone. I recommend both as a much better way to not ‘loose a bookmark’, forget a good idea, or wonder where you put that neat photo.

So what are your ‘can’t live without’ applications? How do you work on the computer, and what do you use to make life easier? Sounds like a good self-reflection type question to me.