Tool #23: Zotero, for the researcher

Save and organize research
Save and organize research

Research is always part of a student and teacher’s life in a university, in any language. Zotero makes collecting research on the web a lot easier. This Firefox plugin (they have a new MS Word plugin too) helps you collect your research, organize it and keep it ready for use at any time. Just hit the Zotero button in the corner of your browser, up pops a small window, you can collect the link, the entire page, or parts of the page, as you like.

Zotero really shines when you need to make a bibliography. You can go to Amazon, or any other site with standard references, and Zotero will collect all the bibliographic data for that book, magazine or web page. Select all the ones you want, set a format for your bibliography (MLA, APA or others) and it automatically creates the bibliography.

They are working on a Japanese version, and the next version will also make all your data available across the web. I do research on about 4 different computers and this will be a godsend.

Tool #20: Open Office

Open Office is the best example of Open Source Software
Open Office is the best example of Open Source Software

Open Office does almost everything that Microsoft Office does, and is free. It is probably the best example of Open Source software. This software was created by dedicated volunteers. The support for the software is better than you can get at Microsoft, in most cases. Open Office comes in Japanese too, as well as many other languages. More and more companies, governments and organizations are using this software, because it does everything they need it to.

Tool #18: Audacity

audacity-logoAudacity is software for using sounds. You can record things, and edit them, and then save them and send them to other people. It is free, is available in English, Japanese and many other languages. You can use it with Windows, OSX (Macintosh) or Linux. I use it 3 or four times a week to make an audio podcast (like an Internet radio show). But you can use it in a few minutes to record your voice, or have your students record their voices, and send them to you for homework. Audacity uses lots of different sound formats, but most people use MP3, because it makes small files that any computer (or your iPod) can use.

You can take out mistakes easily
You can take out mistakes easily

On this sample here, you can see the buttons that look like a tape recorder. Use them to record and save your files. You can edit the sounds much like a word processor, cutting out parts you don’t like or adding background music if you want to get fancy. You can then use the sound files in presentations like PowerPoint, or to make examples for students, or put up on the Internet for people to download and listen on their iPods.

Tool #17: Headset

When your students are learning languages with the web, they will need to listen to sounds and to speak into a microphone. The easiest way to do this is to buy a headset, which is a set of headphones with a microphone coming out one of the earpieces. There are hundreds of models, and they aren’t very expensive, ranging from Y1,000 to about Y10,000.

This headset is made by Plantronics
This headset is made by Plantronics

Many manufacturers make models that are good enough for language learning for about 3,000 to 5,000 yen ($30-50).

A few simple things you should pay attention to when buying:

1) Get stereo, ones with speakers on both ears, not just one.

2) Get a noise canceling microphone if you can, it helps when you are in a noisy room.

3) Get a USB model, one that plugs in using the USB. The quality of sounds is better than the old fashioned ones with the “regular” plug.

Sony makes decent ones, but they are usually overpriced. I like Plantronics, and people I know in the radio business like them for podcasting too.