turning stones

taking for a spin: tools for The Five 8s

Monthly Archives: October 2010

Plugging the Leak

For some, using the internet for researching a specific topic is distracting. A common case is when you encounter terminology you are not familiar with, you leave the page and do a separate search and before you know it, you have clicked too far away from your original site. Some web publishers call this a “search leak”. A user leaves a page when he craves for more information, opens another tab and does another search. A way to plug that leak is to have an ‘instant search’ without leaving the original page and therefore is more engaged and with lesser possibility of being ‘distracted’.

Enter Apture Highlights. A free browser extension that gives you “instantaneous search” on any website. Keeping up with the Halloween theme, I Googled Dracula and was led to a Romanian Tourism site which had an article about the Dracula legend. Reading on, I found an item which I wanted to know more about. I highlight it, and because I have the Apture Highlights extension installed on my Chrome browser, this is what I saw:

And when I clicked “Learn More”, I was presented with this:

More information about the phrase I highlighted, and I did not need to open up a Google tab or window for it. Go to Apture and download the extension. Available for Chrome, Firefox and Safari users. I learned about this from Richard Byrne.

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Tell Stories… Your Stories

Showbeyond is a site I learned about from Ana Maria Menezes. A site where you can create a multimedia slidecast and share it online. Sign up for free and start creating. You can easily grab images, add text and sound to create multimedia stories. You can then save and share them publicly on the site, share to friends, post on social networks or on blogs. You may browse the library of slidecasts submitted by users and maybe you can find suitable material for your cl

asses. Here is an example of a slidecast. This is one of the favorite slidecasts in Showbeyond. Find the slidecast I created on the following post.

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Here’s the Showbeyond slidecast I created



Yup… twiducate… no misspelling there. twiducate is social networking for schools. Similar to Edmodo and Kidblog, twiducate introduces kids to social networking, blogging and micro-blogging. It’s a safe environment as all activity is controlled by the teacher including listing up of students without the need for individual email addresses. A free platform for creating your own Twitter-like, micro-blogging site for your class. You can post assignments and messages for your students and others you want to invite into the network. Students can reply to you and to each other.

Watch the video to learn more. Visit twiducate here.

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Prezi now supports all common video file…

Prezi now supports all common video file formats. Where before, it was just FLV/F4V, now it’s FLV, F4V, AVI, MOV, WMV, F4V, MPG, MPEG, MP4, M4V, 3GP


Online Safety resource for Teachers, Par…

Online Safety resource for Teachers, Parents and Teens



FREE Learning Guides and Teacher Resources

Image courtesy of shmoop.com

Whoa! I stumbled upon a great resource for study and teaching guides. And it’s all for free. Although there is a premium version if you want the whole package, but the free version is such a rich resource already. Shmoop includes a whole lot of materials covering Literature, Poetry, the Bestsellers, Shakespeare, US History, Civics, Economics, Music, Biography, and Pre-Algebra. Let’s say I am teaching Hawthorne’s The Scarlett Letter, I will find an overview, a summary, themes, quotes, the characters, an analysis of the work, probe questions, even photos, a link to related resources on the web and a corner for teachers with ideas for assignments and activities. You can even copy HTML and paste it on your class website, like this:

Shmoop learning guides The Scarlet Letter Assignments & Activities

Let’s face it — sometimes when you’re studying a work of literature intensely, you tend to lose track of the plot (who-did-what-to-whom-where-and-when). Sometimes it’s good to back up and just look at the bare bones of the story. Possibly understanding plot would be a lot easier if each character in the text you’re reading had a Facebook page and could simply update his or her status after each major event.

Here’s an example of William Shakespeare’s play Hamlet turned into a Facebook Newsfeed. This piece was written by Sarah Schmelling for McSweeney’s. (This link leads to the original document. This link leads to a mock Facebook page that makes Schmelling’s piece look exactly like it might look if it truly were posted on Facebook.)

Now it’s your turn to turn your text into a Facebook Wall. Check out Shmoop’s The Scarlet Letter summary, The Scarlet Letter plot analysis and The Scarlet Letter characters. Now try to reduce or summarize the plot of your text into 10-15 Facebook status updates, using at least five different characters.
Unlike Wikipedia, Shmoop is a credible academic resource written by educators and experts from America’s top universities, including Stanford, Harvard, and UC Berkeley. There are no individual authors named as Shmoop is a ‘corporate publisher’. And yes, Shmoop can be cited as a legitimate resource.
Try it out. Find your lessons. Shmoop it!
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Passion or Vocation?

Image courtesy of ictlic.eq.edu.au

Right, I titled this post with a question. Because this will all be about questions. And, starting to write this, I do not have answers in mind. Just more questions.

In Education, everybody is a stakeholder. The learner, his parents, his teachers, his school, his society. Because of this, it should be in everyone’s priority list. But is it? We hear of the bright boys at the DepEd planning additional years for traditional schooling. Is that the right path to take? Should additional years mean additional learning? Is there a one-to-one correspondence? Maybe so. But is it really necessary? And what do they propose? Isagani Cruz said, a year of English. DepEd says, to make high school graduates ’employable’.

But there are many stakeholders of education who vigorously oppose this. They say, fix the current system first. Which side do we take? What do you think?

Will we able to really overhaul and improve quality that the additional two years need not address? Or are the supplementary two years really just that? A desperate supplement of quantity since we know not how to raise quality? Is this the main thesis of this post? No it isn’t. I’m just asking questions. And I know there are no perfect answers.

Given the ten or twelve-year scheme, the questions are still there. What do we teach? How do we teach it? There are a lot of ways out there. We choose what we think suits our students best. But do we customize our curriculum to suit individual needs? Sounds good. But when do we standardize? Isn’t that a relevant need too? To homogenize the curriculum so that students are at par with a common measure as society still places much emphasis on standards and measures?

Do we develop, in our young, the skills to be ’employable’? Are we doing progressive ways of teaching and learning to provide them with the skills they need for their economic future? We do not even know what those skills are, do we? Or do we focus on nurturing their passions? But how close are we to realize that? Yes, we know of several people who have pursued their passions. How many can we name? Can we count ourselves in to that list? Is it the school system that made them passionate or did they need do that outside school?

Is education that foster students’ passion reserved only for the privileged and those who belong to privileged societies? Even first-world, western societies are not spared by this. Are we ready to advocate customized learning in a system that craves standardization? This isn’t just a catch 22 or chicken-or-the-egg thing, is it? These are my questions. Are they yours too?

Image courtesy of infospace.ischool.syr.edu

There are no perfect answers. We know that. We can only do our best. And it’s tough to balance or do both sides of the coin. Vocation or passion? Customized or standardized? And we have to continuously seek what is best all the time.

  1. Provide students with broad experiences.
  2. Develop in them a variety of skills.
  3. Make them understand and appreciate diverse perspectives.
  4. Uncover their hidden talents and interests.
  5. Make them life-long learners.

These are fairly well accepted purpose of school. Maybe this is how we see our current prototype and we justify it assuming we are accomplishing our goal. But we have to look that way. We have to look at a direction. We have to keep asking questions. Curriculum could not be set in stone. It is as dynamic as everyday life is. There is no central thesis for this post. I am just asking questions.

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Visual Bookmarking – Only2Clicks

Every browser offers a start-up page that can be customized to your preference. And a feature you use to bookmark favorite sites that you regularly visit. That’s great! It leaves brain cells free for other things as you do not have to memorize web addresses. When you click ‘Bookmarks’ on the menu bar of your browsers, you probably will see a long list of sites that you have bookmarked over the time you have been using your computer. Or if you are using a start-up page, you probably have one that shows thumbnails of your many favorite sites. But maybe some of us have felt that the bookmark list is already too long or that the start-up page, too cluttered. That you need a little extra time to find the site you are looking for. If you ever felt that way before, read on.

Enter Only2Clicks, a web tool freely available that helps you organize your start-up page and manage your bookmarks. Just signup and you have your own start-up page and visual bookmarks in the cloud. After logging in, you can setup your start-up page, adding tabs for categories and adding categorized bookmarked sites. You can have a ‘Home’ tab for your absolutely favorite, regularly visited sites(email, blog, social networking), a tab for different search engines you use, a category where all your favorite game sites are bookmarked, one for online shopping, another for the different sports or news websites, etc. You can drag and move the thumbnail around to your liking or let Only2Clicks alphabetize the thumbnails for you(ala-OC mode). And if you set it as your homepage, you’re only 2 clicks away from the site you want to visit.

screenshot of my Only2Clicks page

screenshot of my Only2Clicks page

And here’s the real bonus: wherever you are, whichever computer you use, just login to your Only2Clicks account and you have your own start-up page and visual bookmarks right in front of you.

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Online Safety eBook for Teens – Own Your Space

This is an ordinary day for you. You download music, Google your homework, and are constantly online on FaceBook. You check your email, tweak your Tumblr, download the latest Glee episode. And of course you’re either at Fantasy Basketball or Cafe World. While you’re doing that, you know that you need to keep safe. This ebook is all about that — protecting your data, your identity, and yourself without giving up all the neat stuff being online puts at your fingertips.

This ebook is by Linda McCarthy, a Security Architect at Symantec. She has previously published seven books on IT Security.

Targeted for teens and tweens, it tackles, among others, fighting viruses, worms, Trojans and spyware; curbing spam and crushing web bugs; understand just how public your ‘private’ blogs are; keeping your home wireless network secure; and safeguarding your parents’ credit card and financial data.

It’s a resource no teen or parent should miss. Using any OS or browser, download .pdf files of the entire book or individual chapters from this link: http://fur.ly/2mnx

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