Read the words

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Thanks to Kate Olsen for the lead to Read the Words, a text to audio site that enables users to have text read out by computer voices.  Once you create a free account you can then upload your document for reading and it will convert the text to an audio file.      Once your recordings are saved they can be downloaded as mp3 files or even embedded in a blog.

This is a useful resource for education.  I see its value in downloading text files such as lecture notes, revision notes and study material to an ipod.   The user can then listen as they travel, exercise or whatever.  This is a great easy way to prepare for exams and no-one will know you are studying!  Make sure the notes are not too abbreviated as the computer readers will have difficulty with abbreviations such as ‘eg’ (better to type the word ‘example’ for the reader).  You can slow the voice reader down and select from a variety of voices for your reading.

This is also a great resource for visually impaired learners and therefore has potential in the special education environment. 

To record, after opening an account, click on create a new reading, select your document type (such as Word or PDF), upload the file and follow the instructions for converting.  (Note: It will not accept Word 2007, so convert to 2003 before saving).  Once you have your recording made, you can click on download to mp3.  If when you do this you get the reading only and no download happening (which is what happened to me) follow the directions that the nice people at Read the Words sent to me:

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Simply click the download mp3 button.  Some browsers are set up to just play the reading.  IF you are having this problem, right click the download button, and choose save as.  You can then specify the location where you want to save the mp3.  You can save it to your computer, and then put it on your ipod, save it in itunes, or plug in your ipod and save it directly on there.

I am always pleasantly surprised that there are real people who offer great support for tools that are available on the Web.  I wish some customer service reps were as helpful.

Click the play button to hear Michael, a computer reader from Read the Words reading this post.

Easy flash movie creator

This has to be one of the most versitile and easy flash movie creators, Toufee.  I came across it via Richard Byrne’s site, Free Technology for Teachers,  and was totally impressed with its easy drag and drop features.  As Richard states, it is not only capable of creating slides into movies, but also images, videos, audio and text can be incorporated into one video.  A great tool to bookmark.   When you sign up (for free) the interface looks different to the sample page  shown below.  The tutorial is voice guided, telling you how to create a video show.   It has everything you need to make an awesome multi-media presentation and all for free.  It is easy to spend hours trying out all the features and playing around.  Check it out.

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Online tools for formative assessment

 Creating online assessment tools is so easy on Quia (pronounced key-ah, and is short for Quintessential Instructional Archive).  Although it costs about $50 a year (30-day free trial) I was really impressed with the array of formative assessment tools that could be created.  The following information is taken from Find out more about Quia:

The teacher can organize the test so that it evaluates the learning standard at a high level of thinking. For example, the first three questions could quiz at the Bloom’s Knowledge-Comprehension level, the next three at the Application- Analysis level, and the remaining four at the Synthesis-Evaluation level.

  • Templates for creating 16 types of online activities, including flash cards, word search, battleship, challenge board, and cloze exercises. Quia activities are designed with different learning styles in mind to suit the needs of all your students.
  • Complete online testing tools that allow you to create quizzes, grade them with computer assistance, and receive detailed reports on student performance.
  • Access to online activities and quizzes in more than 150 categories. All of the shared activities have been created by teachers from around the world.
  • A schoolwide network that lets you collaborate with your fellow teachers quickly and effortlessly.
  • An easy, centralized classroom management system including a master student list, archive of student results, and the tools to conduct schoolwide proficiency testing.
  • A class Web page creator that includes a course calendar and an easy way to post your Quia activities for students and parents.
  • Online surveys for gathering student and teacher feedback.

Hassle-free quiz creation

Not only are Quia’s quiz tools easy to use, but quizzes can be customized to fit any teacher’s needs.

  • Choose from 10 question types, including multiple choice, true-false, short answer, essay, matching, and ordering.
  • Include audio or pictures in your quizzes, if you like.
  • Have students take your quizzes from any computer with an Internet connection, or even on paper print-outs.
  • Select from a wide range of options for controlling student access during testing.

 A sample of a quiz that can be created:

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 The site also enables instant grading and reporting and networking inter-school or between schools and districts.

There is already a huge resource bank available for all different subject areas and levels. 

There is another site for creating quizzes and flashcards, Proprofs.com but it was not as impressive. It did not have a huge range of subjects, shared assessment and was not age categorised.

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Edu 2.0

Edu. 2.0  is an incredible free resource centre for teaching, learning and has a 10,000 plus bank of educational resources.   It provides networking and collaboration in a secure online community.    Teachers can contribute lessons, keep track of assignments, grades, participate in groups and forums.  Plus:

  • Students can create porfolio’s of their best work
  • Conduct surveys with your students
  • Create blogs
  • Games and quizzes
  • Create and share lesson plans
  • Create custom feeds for classes

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Free technology resources for teachers

Centralised locations for resources saves teachers time and energy in locating suitable material for specific subject areas.  Another innovation for k-12 educators initiated by Richard Byrne  is his proposed FreeTech4Teachers site. If you go to the site you can register your interest in its launch.  Richard’s blog Free Technology for Teachers hosts a rich supply of k-12 resources and ideas for integrating them into education and will form the basis for the new site.    Additionally, it proposes to host a multi-media sharing component similar to “teacher tube” but with file sharing options.

Edutagger

Edutagger (created by Mark Schumann) is a new kid on the social bookmarking block for K-12 learners and educators for the storing and sharing of web links.  Del.icio.us works for many educators and there is talk of creating an import facility from it into edutagger.     Once you register to become an edutagger, you will have access to submit links.      Users will be able to tag links.  The most popular tags will reside on the front page.  The aim of edutagger is to provide a means for learners and educators to benefit from the many quality resources in a central location.

Ipods for Learning

Ipods are the new learning tool in higher education: downloaded lectures, storing files, learning languages and a whole array of other uses are described in Ipods for learning and teaching.

I read an article which described how a teacher downloaded lesson files to help students of lesser abilities to prepare for tests. The students felt less self-conscious listening to their lessons on ipods and their test scores increased considerably.

This brings up the issue of digital divide: not all students own an ipod.  Who provides the ipods for educational purposes? Whereas most higher education students are likely to own an ipod, this is not the case with all school students.   Similarly, some students will have computers at home and others will not.  This imbalance is an issue that needs to be addressed for equity of learning.