Tool #4: RSS

RSS

RSS

Really Simple Syndication or Rich Site Summary (RSS) (日本語) is like getting an online magazine subscription to a blog or news “feed”. This means whenever a person updates their web site, blog or adds to their page, it is automatically sent to me. I used to go “surfing” on the web, but no longer. It now comes to me. Some people get this information in emails, but I prefer to use a Reader, a special software that organizes all these.

I use Google Reader. It is free, and works well. I have about 40 different sites registered. Whenever they update, it is sent, within seconds, to my reader. So when Andrew Sullivan posts one of his 59 messages a day, I get them all. Ian Blogost posts about 2 messages a week, I get those too. I organize them into topics, like Learning, Language, Technology, and Fun. I click on the star in the corner to save the ones I like. Best of all, I add Tags to ones I save. This is like giving labels to each post, so I can find it different ways. (I will explain more about tags in another Tool.)

RSS is the biggest change to the Internet in the last 5 years. It is the biggest difference between Web 1.0 and Web 2.0. If you don’t know about this difference, you are  Web 1.0 and are 5 years behind.

Tool #3 Rikai Translator

Rikai is free

Rikai is free

I constantly tell my students they should use their dictionaries as little as possible. They are ultimately frustrating. Far better to find material that students feel is comfortable, where they know about 95% of the words, so they don’t have to use the dictionary, and can still guess the meanings of the other 5% of the words.

But when one is surfing the web, at times, you need quick access to a dictionary because the web is not like a graded reader. The best I’ve found is Rikai translator.

Tool #2: MS Word: Track Changes

MS Word is kind of the standard for word processing (although I prefer a different one).

Teachers correct a lot of papers. They are worried about errors. Even though the research shows that correcting errors does little to improve student writing, teachers still do it. It makes them feel good, like they are doing something.

Instead of only giving feedback to one student, I collect all the written assignments in a Word Processor (students have to send their final version by email or similar). I erase all the names. I correct all the work, and hand it back to all the students. This works better if they have online access to the document, but usually, a first-year writing assignment you can fit about 5 or 6 onto one page.

Select Track Changes in tool menu

Select Track Changes in tool menu

By all means, though, leave the correction marks on their mistakes. To do this in MS Word, go to TOOLS menu, and choose Track Changes. (You should be sure the toolbar shows for this.) There are different options to show the corrections. I prefer to show them right in the document (not in balloons off the the right, or in a window at the bottom).

The best advantage of this method is that students can learn from each others mistakes. I often BOLD the common mistakes and teach a mini-lesson on that point. Timing is everything (do get the feedback in the next class, research shows it is most effective that way).

Review menu in Word 2003. The new version looks different.

Review menu in Word 2003. The new version looks different.

Tokyo: smelliest place on earth

nioibu.com lets people warn others of smelly places

nioibu.com lets people warn others of smelly places

According to the new Social Networking  website that relies on Google Maps to point out smelly places in the world, Tokyo must be the smelliest place on earth.

That is, until you realize that the site is in Japanese, and that it is almost brand new. Of course, those of us that live in Tokyo, and have good noses, would be the first to post sites. Each flag is color coded, depending on the type of smell.

Google Maps is being used for numerous applications. For example, in San Francisco, they link together the location of searches on mobile phones for key words like flu or disease to try to map out a progression of a breakout and where it might be headed.

Only would the Japanese think of applying it to avoid smells.

Tool #1: Cute PDF

I’m coming to hate paper more and more. You can’t search it, you can’t change it, and it gets lost so easily. I see teachers requiring students to print out online reports of their progress reports, instead of looking at the reports themselves. It seems odd. But some teachers just want to have a permanent record of some event.

So instead of printing it out on paper, why not print it out on a pdf file? PDF is the short name for Adobe Acrobat files. To print from Adobe, you have to pay money. But another software is free.

Cute PDF is a software you can download, and install just like any other printer. Instead of printing a page, it makes a file, an Adobe Acrobat file. You can save them all together. They are searchable. I use this now more than my paper printer. You can then send the documents by email. They are in color, and do not change.  It is as easy as printing a page.

Download the FREE version, not the Pro version

Download the FREE version, not the Pro version

If you have never installed software on your computer, tell the person that usually does it to SHOW you how to do it. After you install 3 or 4 programs, it becomes much easier. This is the first step to controlling your machine instead of it controlling you.