Tool #36: The Moth: a podcast

themoth The Moth is a podcast of short stories told by amateurs, and a few professionals. They are told at a weekly event in New York or Los Angeles. People are selected to get up on stage and tell their stories, without notes, to the other story-tellers (the hardest audience).

You can listen to the Moth on their website or through iTunes. Nathan Furuya over at Kasai Gaidai recommended the podcast to me, and he is putting together of list of the best ones for teaching. I’ll share it with you when he gets it done.  For now, they have a contest every once in a while, and here you can listen to the winners of the StorySlams.

Tool #35: iKnow Social Learning

iKnow does more than language
iKnow does more than language

iKnow grew out of a project at Cerego, a company here in Japan that made English language learning software. They moved the content online, made it free, and “socialized” it, made it have more Web 2.0 features.

After that they expanded the content to include more than English, to other languages, and then beyond langauges. All with a simple interface and a few great tools for language learners. The best part, however, is the interaction between learners. Watch the introductory video to get a quick overview. My students like this site as well.

Barack Obama’s Inauguration Speech

Ogawa-sensei remembered that I had brought Obama’s acceptance speech to Cosmos Festival in November. He asked me if I had a good copy (better than the one on YouTube). Ogawa-sensei, I’ll bring it in on Monday.

Obama’s speeches are legendary now. I’ve been following him since 2004, and he continues to amaze.

President Barack Obama gives his inaugural address. Photograph: Chip Somodevilla/Getty
President Barack Obama gives his inaugural address. Photograph: Chip Somodevilla/Getty

The text and video of his speech show initially that his Inauguration speech on Tuesday may have had lukewarm reception at first.

But when you start to look at the speech carefully, his mastery shows. It is a new style of speech, more measured, more exact, and it leads to discussion and interpretation. He is moving the ideas front and center, instead of personalities.

Stanley Fish, Dean of my university (Uof I , Chicago) when I was there (now former) and widely read columnist for the New York Times, looks closely at Obama’s speech, and shows us the intricacies. He thinks we should use this speech in our English classes, because of its

Paratactic prose lends itself to leisurely and loving study, and that is what Obama’s speech is already receiving. Penguin Books is getting out a “keepsake” edition of the speech, which will be presented along with writings by Abraham Lincoln and Ralph Waldo Emerson. (You can move back and forth among them, annotating similarities and differences.)

I can’t wait for the new Penguin Edition to come out. After their ground-breaking WeTellStories, I am really looking forward to more experimentation on augmenting regular text. Penguin is really innovative.

My (younger) daughter will be giving a part of an Obama speech on February 14 at the Jr/Sr high school on campus. She picked it out last September, and hopes to take it to the National Finals of the Hachishibu Speech Contest. I’ll put up a video after.

Tool #34: LiveMocha: Social Language Learning

livemochaLiveMocha is a social web site, like Mixi or Facebook, or MySpace, but better.  This social web site is all about language learning and language exchange. People teach each other or simply interact in foreign languages. The New York Times has taken notice (look at the quote on their home page). I ask my students to sign up and use LiveMocha as part of my Computer Literacy Class. They seem to really like it. You can get points by teaching other people, or helping to create materials in your own language, and use those points for learning. A whole new economics of teaching is being created here.

Tool #33: Lexxica’s Word Engine

study words you really need
study words you really need

Lexxica’s Word Engine is built on research done by Charles Browne and others. He has been into Showa to speak to teachers and students about learning vocabulary. The main idea is that most books in high school teach the wrong words, words that are of very low frequency (they aren’t used much).

Here at the Word Engine, you can get your vocabulary checked in a few minutes and then study words that are most necessary to understand most reading passages.  Thre are 3 or 4 vocabulary activities you can do, and the program remembers which ones you know or don’t know. You can even do some activities with your cell phone.