Tool #65: Japan By the Numbers

What Japan thinks
What Japan thinks

I’ve always thought that talking about numbers gets short shrift (not enough attention) in most language classes. People talk about numbers a lot in normal conversation, and we hardly ever practice them in class. I’d like to do a whole class about using numbers in English. I think it would be a blast.

I’d certainly use this site in that class, What Japan Thinks is a look at Japan through questionnaires and statistics. I think it is a great way to talk about Japan, and about people.

Tool #63: 74,000 pictures of nouns

80 million tiny images
80 million tiny images

OK, these guys from MIT wanted to see what 80 million images looked like whent they were all squashed together. But the neat thing is that they took about 74,000 vocabulary words, and created an image out of other images to show what the meaning was. This is actually a project to get people to help computers recognize images. You can help by clicking on an image, and defining parts of it. A great way to get discussion going about almost anything. Read more aobut this at the ReadWriteWeb.

Tool #62: Augmented Learning

M-learning is augmented
M-learning is augmented

MIT Press has a recet book out on Augmented Learning. With e-learning and m-learning (mobile), and alternative reality games, there is a new movement to take the learning outside the classroom. This book provides research and suggestions on how to make that work in today’s educational situation.

Japan is the best place on earth to implement this kind of learning. Yet, it is almost unknown. I attended a Wireless Learning conference in Nagoya this weekend, and found that even pioneers are not using mobile learning. Asked by one of the keynote speakers from England, some replied that students were expected to sit at a desk to learn. With attendance requirements, I can understand this. It is almost impossible to take a field trip at my university. So sad, to be shuttered up in a closet-like room with nothing on the walls for input, one of the worst learning environments possible. Break free with this book.

Tool #61: Lesson Writer

lessonwriterMake up vocabulary and reading lessons in minutes from prepared texts. Lesson Writer. Here is something from their web page.

How it works

  • Copy & paste any text you choose into LessonWriter.
  • LessonWriter analyzes text for vocabulary, grammar and usage, pronunciation, and word roots and stems.
  • Then, LessonWriter writes a lesson plan and a lesson that teaches the skills you chose in the context of the passage – automatically.

Tool #60: Splicd: clip YouTube videos

Start video at exactly the right place
Start video at exactly the right place

This little tool for YouTube videos is very simple. It splices your videos (hence the name splicd), so you can start and stop at exactly the right place.

You can do this without a web site, by changing the URL at YouTube, but it is hard to remember how to do it. Here, you just put in the YouTube URL and the time it should start and stop.

Tool #58: pbWiki

simple wiki
simple wiki

If you don’t know what a wiki is, try the wikipedia entry for wiki (English, Japanese).

pbwiki is one of the simplest sites to set up a wiki. It is designed to be as easy to make as a peanut butter sandwich (pb). Now, if you are using Moodle, there is a built-in multilingual wiki. But if you aren’t, this is a great alternative.

Tool #57: Vimeo: Video sharing

Share HD video
Share HD video

YouTube is great for looking at and sharing video. But sometimes, you want more control over your distribution. With a Pro account (about $60 a year) at Vimeo, you can send out an email to people with a URL and a password. They don’t have to sign in to vimeo, or become a member. They can just watch the video online. And the videos can remain private to only those people you send emails to. You can also restrict which places can put up copies of your video (embedded) if you do decide to make the video public. There are also options to download the video as well as stream it. HD, or high definition, is the new standard in online video. Much better than previous versions.

Tool #56: Slideshare: Powerpoint Online

Put presentations online
Put presentations online

If you use a projector in class, you probably have piles of powerpoint presentations. Why not let your students look at them at their leisure (and you can keep a copy online in case you lose the original). You can make a set of slides from a powerpoint presentation in minutes, upload it to SlideShare and share it publicly or privately.

You can add your voice to the slides if you like. This is a wonderful way to share your information with your students.

Tool #55: The Spoken Word

find and share spoken word programs
find and share spoken word programs

There are a lot of spoken word programs out there. People doing interviews, talking about their deepest darkest secrets, or just explaining things that they know. Spoken Word is a brand new (came out of beta today) site dedicated to collecting all these resources together. If you ever needed any authentic audio for your classroom, this is the place to get it. If you have a spoken word podcast or resource, you can get people to come to it. I’m going to add my student podcast Talking Tokyo as soon as I finish here.

Tool #54: StumbleUpon: Are you lucky?

stumbleuponToday is Friday, and it’s the 13th. So why not try your luck? StumbleUpon is a great way to explore the web for new and interesting things. Better than browsing, you can explore what other people find interesting. Sign up for an account and start finding people that have similar interests and you can refine what you find. A great way to take a quick break, a mental vacation, and maybe discover something new.

Tool #53: Twitter

140 characters
140 characters

Twitter is the Internet’s hottets mode of communication these days. Like all good ideas, this is crushingly simple. Type in a message of less than 140 characters. You have a group of people (your followers) who’s list of messages this is added to. Your list of messages is what everyone you follow has added in the last few hours. You leave this open in your browser (or, increasingly, on your smart phone) and read in real time what others are thinking or doing.

Originally people posted what they were doing at that moment, and you got a sense of what your acquaintances were all experiencing. More and more, people are posting interesting things they see, hear or find. It is an amazing resource when you need an answer about something you know nothing in a very short time. Ask a question, your twitter followers answer in minutes or seconds.

In class? Set up a titter account for everyone, and have your students follow you. A great way to get feedback during class (put your feed from twitter up on the class projector, your students can comment in real time on your class).  If you want a more restricted audience, try Yammer (restricted by company address, like @swu.ac.jp, I have that account), Jaiku, Plurk (with an interesting graphical interface), FriendFeed (twitter in steroids, collects stuff from all your social network sites, the upcoming twitter killer).

Tool #52: Evoticon: Japanese emoticons

Japanese emoticons
Japanese emoticons

Icons in your email, or SMS, or mobile mail, can indicate your emotions much more quickly than words. With programmable phones these days, you can set longer ones to memory and recall them with a few keystrokes. Here is a bunch of these emoticons, or kao-mohi (face-icons) with a quick English translation. These are not necessarily popular right now, but you can vote on them (thus tne name eVOTicon).

Tool #51: Google Mobile Books

Amazon just came out with a new version of their eBook reader, the Kindle. It looks very nice. I wish they were available here in Japan (my guess, they will be here by the end of the year.

But another service, Google Mobile, allows you to get electronic versions of books on your cell phone. As screens on phones get easier to read, this may be something you could use to help your students maintain their reading, in places like bus stations and trains. Google just added 1.5 million new books.

Read here about why the paper book is pretty much doomed to a very small niche market in the very near future.

Tool #50: TokyoMango: Blog

Lisa is bilingual
Lisa is bilingual

Lisa Katayama is a successful young writer for tech magazines like Wired. In her blog she shows interesting sides of Japan with unusual products. If I ever need something interesting to discuss in class, I can usually find it here in a matter of seconds. She also has a book out.