Reviewing Online Research Skills: Part Two

Google Scholar, clustering search engines, citation generators and more

…………Last time I mentioned that most students begin their online research by turning to GOOGLE, and that usually leads to at least one WIKIPEDIA entry. Both of these sites are covered in my last post, and there’s plenty to discuss about them, but with only fifteen minutes left in my presentation, I quickly turn to GOOGLE SCHOLAR.

…………Despite its pedigree, Google Scholar is not a search engine in the traditional sense. Search engines, like Bing, Yahoo Search and Ask retrieve web pages based on algorithms that rank popularity and links to other pages. Google Scholar weeds out most of that noise and focuses on finding obscure hits that are academic, research based papers, publications and other resources that won’t make anyone’s “most popular” list. In this case, that’s a good thing.

…………It’s important to note that many of the finds that Google Scholar returns may be resources that require subscription or purchase. This doesn’t mean that you can’t find useful research material that is free. Included in Google Scholar’s search is the power of Google Books, which often allows users to preview whole sections of books. This is a great resource, especially for high school researchers, whose school libraries cannot keep up with purchasing published materials that are current, reliable, and appropriate for doing academic research.

…………Google Scholar also finds case studies, research publications and other public documents that are published by universities, individual researchers and private think tanks. Many of these resources are not only available for free, but can be downloaded as a PDF. Best of all, if you do find something that you can use in your research, Google Scholar provides the citation information in MLA, APA and Chicago formats. This alone, will save the student researcher valuable time in the end. google scholar Clustering Search Engines

…………With just a handful of minutes left, I finally get to talk about sites not named Google or Wikipedia. (And that’s okay, because it’s important to discuss when and how to use both of those ubiquitous and powerful Internet tools.) I usually have the class brainstorm with me the ways they begin their Internet research, so I return to the list we’ve created. Most times, this list includes other popular search engines such as Bing, Ask, Yahoo Search, maybe Dogpile or Webcrawler. These other sites are also search engines that use different algorithms to search for and sort the finds. They will basically return many of the same websites in different orders, and I don’t have a preference for one over the others.

…………Instead, I introduce students to YIPPY, a clustering search engine. Like the other search engines mentioned, Yippy has a traditional search field where you type in your keyword. Unlike the other search engines, Yippy divides the kind of returns it finds into several categories including what kind of site it came from (.edu, .gov, .org, etc.) and when the site was updated (past week, past month, etc.). Additionally, Yippy also offers a column of related search terms that both expand and narrow the keyword.

…………So, for example, if a student searches “steroids”, Yippy will find the typical Wikipedia entry, all the current news stories dealing with the topic and the sites selling, advertising and talking about steroids. The bonus for student researchers is that the clustering search engine will also divide the websites into meaningful categories such as “Side Effects of”, “Medical Use”, “High School”, “Bodybuilding” and so on. These “clouds” (as they’re called on Yippy) give students other words that could help them narrow or expand their research idea.

yippy2 Citation generators

…………During the final minute of my presentation, I introduce kids to a couple of the great online citation generators that exist to make their academic lives a little easier. I understand that there are still some teachers that insist that their students gather all of the bibliographic information on their own, but I find that most citation generators are imperfect anyway and will demand the students’ attention to correct or complete the information.

…………These online tools are also very useful, I believe, because the amounts and kinds of information that are available to today’s student researchers is ever changing and we could all use a little technical assistance with such matters as proper documentation of sources. The two citation generators I usually recommend are Easybib and Son of Citation Machine. Both of these tools are free and easy to use and require minimum training for learning how to generate proper MLA style citations. (Easybib requires a paid “upgrade” to create APA or Chicago style citations) son of Closing Remarks

…………Just before the bell rings, I remind students that the world wide web is an incredible collection of information, but that most of it isn’t really appropriate for school research. In fact, what most of us know as the “Internet” is really only the tip of the information iceberg that exists online. Stored in private and subscription databases is a whole other world of information that not even Google can reach. If they seem interested in learning more, I’m invited back. If they’re not interested, at least they’ll have some pointers to start with.

…………I hope you found something worthwhile. Next time I’ll discuss the databases available through the Haverhill Public Library and other useful sites for student researchers. As always, thank you for stopping by.

Copyright © henry toromoreno, 2015. All rights reserved.

Free Apps from HPL

The Haverhill Public Library (HPL) is a great resource, not just for students but for everyone. Just as technology has transformed the way we do everything else, it has changed our relationship with the library as well. When I was a kid, the library was just a building that warehoused books. Today it is still a great place to find printed material, but it is also a place on the internet that gives us access to valuable digital information.

Our good friends Nancy Chase and Rachel Gagnon, librarians from the HPL, visited on Thursday, November 13, 2014 to introduce us to some of the digital resources available. They spoke to Ms. Quinney’s, Mr. Lavieri’s and Mr. Rossetti’s classes and plan to return in the future. Here’s a brief introduction to the services they spoke about:

  • Free legal music: Downloading music from unauthorized sites is still considered piracy nowadays, even though there is no high profile site like Napster in the news any longer. Freegal Music is a great alternative and it is free and virus free (which is always a big deal). While library users must deal with a weekly download limit, all songs do have a sample clip which lets you preview the songs. All songs are in MP3 format and videos are in MP4 format; there is no DRM content. The mobile app is free and available at the Apple App Store and through Google Play.

 

  • Hoopla: Someone paid the copy people at this company good money to sell their service, so I’ll let them speak for themselves as to what this app is all about.“Freedom starts here, now.Bringing you hundreds of thousands of movies, full music albums, audiobooks and more, hoopla is a revolutionary digital service made possible by your local library.From Hollywood blockbusters to best selling artists and authors – not just the hits, but the niche and hard-to-find as well – you’ll soon discover that hoopla provides you the freedom you’ve been searching for to experience, explore and enjoy what you want, when you want, and where you want.Simple to access and use, without the hassle of having to return the items you’ve borrowed, all you need is your library card, a web browser, smart phone or tablet to get started. The freedom you want is here, now. Sign up today!”

 

  • Overdrive: Another great app that every student and avid book lover should have. Overdrive allows you to download books, audiobooks and some videos to your smart devices. They have a good, brief introduction video here and like the other services above, content is never overdue since it “disappears” from your account and your devices when it is due back. Overdrive is available for iOS, Android, Kindle and Windows Phone, as well as for Windows and Mac desktop platforms.

 

  • Zinio: Like newspapers, magazines and other periodicals have seen their print subscriptions plummet since the advent of the internet. For a while, these print sources simply offered their content online for free, but those days have passed. Nowadays, you’ll need a subscription to access most of the content of these sources. Fortunately, the public library offers you a great alternative to buying all those magazines. Through Zinio, you are able to access all the magazines that your local library subscribes to, including back issues. You can download content to read while off-line, and like with other digital services, the content disappears from your device when your time expires.

All of these apps are free to download and use on any of your devices. Highly recommended for both teachers and students, and anyone else who wants to get the most from their public library. Hope you find something useful and thank you for stopping by.

Copyright © henry toromoreno, 2014. All rights reserved.

Online resources for research

Hello all. It’s been a while again, since my last blog post, and I apologize for the absence. I’ve been presenting to English classes as they prepare for their research projects. I generally start by introducing the HHS OPAC so that our students will know how to get around their college libraries once they get there, and then I ask them where they start their online searching. Without fail, every class has mentioned Google and Wikipedia. Then our real discussion begins. Depending on the topics, grade level, and amount of research the teachers are expecting of the students, we discuss different strategies, online tools and databases to use. Everyone gets introduced to the Haverhill Public Library databases and I reinforce the importance of having a library card.

But no matter how much I stress the value of databases, I still see students returning to the internet to complete their academic research; and I don’t blame them. There are many wonderful and useful sites out there, and today I’d like to share with you a short list of my favorite online tools and websites for doing academic work and research:

  • CIA World Factbook: An indispensible collection of intelligence gathered from countries around the world including the best, most current data on population, economics, religion and other social and financial information.
  • Newseum: Part curiosity, part digital archive, the collection at this website is interesting for a couple of reasons. First of all, you can see the front page of over 1000 newspapers (yes, they still print those) from 89 countries. Second, you can see the front pages as they appeared on a few recent historic days (think 9/11, Katrina, final shuttle launch, 2004 Tsunami, etc). Third, there are also a number of professional development opportunities that teach how to incorporate the news in the classroom such as “The Photographic Revolution: The Ethics and Impact of Seeing the Story” and “The Media and the Cold War”.
  • Bartleby.com: No relation to Melville’s scrivener, this website is one of the original and best compilations of “classics”. Here you will find Bartlett’s Quotations, Bulfinch’s Mythology, Oxford’s Shakespeare, and other reference works including anthologies of TS Eliot, Sigmund Freud, Emily Dickinson & others.
  • Getty Images: I haven’t completely explored this website, but I do know that there are more than 3 million pictures available and that makes for a fantastic resource for any project. Unfortunately, you can’t save the pictures without purchasing them (unless you don’t mind a large watermark crediting the photographer … which sometimes, I don’t). Even if you don’t include the pictures in your paper or presentation, the photographs in this collection are still useful for looking at primary documents from different periods to examine fashion, architecture, living conditions, etc.
  • Purdue OWL (Online Writing Lab): a great resource for anyone who is writing a research or academic paper of any kind. For me, this site basically replaces my old desktop, spiral bound copy of Diane Hacker’s Writers Handbook. Whenever I teach academic writing I always use the sample papers available on the site to show students what a paper should “look like” … presentation counts, after all.
  • PaperRater: Sure, whatever word processing program you’re using already has a built-in spell correct and grammar check feature, but this web site offers just a little bit more than that. PaperRater tells you up front that it can’t tell you a lick about your content, but it is pretty good at looking at things it can quantify, like sentence length and words per sentence. It can also make some guesses about your writing by looking at your vocabulary, capitalization, and punctuation. That’s really good feedback for free.

This is by no means a complete or comprehensive list of all the resources available online for doing research, but it’s a start, and I hope you find something useful. Thank you for stopping by.

Copyright © henry toromoreno, 2014. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

Video Resources Review

While updating the links to this blog, I decided to check in on some of the video resources available. I was thinking especially about teachers and students who now have access to the internet via their Mac Books and PolyVision Boards, in the computer labs and in the library. The video resources that we can stream and use for discussion are so much greater than the 3000 VHS video tapes we still have in our library collection. Here is a quick review of four video resource links I still think are useful.

Annenberg Learner/http://www.learner.org/

From their About Us Page: Annenberg Learner’s multimedia resources help teachers increase their expertise in their fields and assist them in improving their teaching methods. Many programs are also intended for students in the classroom and viewers at home. All Annenberg Learner videos exemplify excellent teaching.

I like it because: It is produced by a reputable organization whose aims have students and teachers in mind. I also like that their site allows you to search the videos according to discipline and grade level, which limits the number of hits you’ll get. Some suggested titles when I searched for High School (9-12) Science, for example, were (with descriptions lifted from their pages):

  • Earth Revealed: Explore the complex processes that shape our planet. Video instructional series for college and high school classrooms and adult learners. (Didn’t work when I tried it)
  • The Habitable Planet: A Systems Approach to Environmental Science: Learn about Earth’s natural systems and environmental science with this course for high school teachers and college level instruction.
  • Intimate Strangers: Unseen Life on Earth: Watch scientists investigate how microbes affect our world. A video documentary for college and high school classrooms and adult learners.
  • Physics for the 21st Century: A multimedia course for high school physics teachers, undergraduate students, and science enthusiasts; 11 half-hour programs, online text, facilitator’s guide, and Web site.
  • Private Universe Project in Science: Explore ways to correct student misconceptions about science in this video workshop for grade 1-12 educators.

Drawback: Video production is sometimes a little too “PBS” for students’ tastes. There is a very limited number of offerings, maybe two or three dozen per discipline, which may actually be a plus in the long run.

FREE: Federal Resources for Educational Excellence/… http://www.free.ed.gov/

From their About Us Page: FREE was conceived in 1997 by a federal working group in response to a memo from the President. The site was launched a year later. It was redesigned and relaunched for the first time in November 2006. FREE makes it easier to find teaching and learning resources from the federal government. More than 1,500 federally supported teaching and learning resources are included from dozens of federal agencies. New sites are added regularly. You are invited to link to FREE.

I like it because: It’s free. In an internet world that is constantly searching for new ways to monetize everything on it, it’s always great as a teacher to find free resources. This site breaks down information into long lists which is a little boring, but I do like that they also categorize their database into animations (only 27), primary docs (130), photos (79) and videos (40). What you’ll find as you search is that you will be redirected to sites such as the Library of Congress, The Smithsonian Institution and the National Gallery of Art. Here’s a sample of Videos available (with descriptions lifted from their pages):

  • American Memory : presents the photographs, manuscripts, rare books, maps, recorded sound, and moving pictures that are part of the historical Americana holdings at the Library of Congress. The learning section contains research tools, lesson plans, and activities for students. (Library of Congress)
  • Videos from Secrets of Plant Genomes Revealed! is a lively, upbeat video exploration of how plants got to be the way they are and how we can make better use of them in the future. Learn how plant genome research is revolutionizing the field of biology. Find out how scientists are unlocking the secrets of corn, cotton, potatoes, and other plants that are important in our lives. Discover why the study of plants is exciting and how learning more about plants can improve our everyday lives. (National Science Foundation)
  • NSF Multimedia Gallery provides nearly 100 videos and webcasts on a range of science topics: a fossil that may represent the first vertebrate to emerge from the sea, turning forest-industry waste into fuel and textiles, “superglue” produced by aquatic bacteria, a house built on a “shake table” (earthquake research), teaching robots to swim, 14 engineering challenges for the 21st century, solving a crime scene mystery, a 60-second history of the universe, earth’s deep-time archives, dinosaurs, and more. (National Science Foundation)

Drawback: This is a great clearinghouse for many organizations receiving money from the government and responsible for maintaining the “national memory”; the site itself, however, doesn’t do much more than act as a search engine for these resources. Unfortunately, for me, none of the three web animations I tried from the various links worked the day I tried them. Even after updating my Adobe Flash player.

Open Yale Courses/ … http://oyc.yale.edu/

From Their About Us Page: Open Yale Courses (OYC) provides lectures and other materials from selected Yale College courses to the public free of charge via the Internet. Registration is not required. No course credit, degree, or certificate is available. The online courses are designed for a wide range of people around the world, among them self-directed and life-long learners, educators, and high school and college students. Each course includes a full set of class lectures produced in high-quality video accompanied by such other course materials as syllabi, suggested readings, and problem sets. The lectures are available as downloadable videos, and an audio-only version is also offered. In addition, searchable transcripts of each lecture are provided.

I like it because: If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to attend a world class university, all these videos are evidence that it’s exactly what you thought it would be like. Smart person in the front of the room, talking to a bunch of people listening in the audience. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in group work and differentiated instruction and the student centered model, but what culture shock it must be for our students who work through these other models for all their years in school, only to find the “sage on the stage” or “chalk and talk” as the primary model in college/ university courses. If other models are used in any of the courses, I didn’t find one among those I surveyed. Among the titles I viewed were (with descriptions lifted from their pages):

  •  HISTORY 234: Epidemics in Western Society Since 1600: This course consists of an international analysis of the impact of epidemic diseases on western society and culture from the bubonic plague to HIV/AIDS and the recent experience of SARS and swine flu. Leading themes include: infectious disease and its impact on society; the development of public health measures; the role of medical ethics; the genre of plague literature; the social reactions of mass hysteria and violence; the rise of the germ theory of disease; the development of tropical medicine; a comparison of the social, cultural, and historical impact of major infectious diseases; and the issue of emerging and re-emerging diseases.
  • ENGLISH 291: The American Novel Since 1945: In “The American Novel Since 1945” students will study a wide range of works from 1945 to the present. The course traces the formal and thematic developments of the novel in this period, focusing on the relationship between writers and readers, the conditions of publishing, innovations in the novel’s form, fiction’s engagement with history, and the changing place of literature in American culture. The reading list includes works by Richard Wright, Flannery O’Connor, Vladimir Nabokov, Jack Kerouac, J. D. Salinger, Thomas Pynchon, John Barth, Maxine Hong Kingston, Toni Morrison, Marilynne Robinson, Cormac McCarthy, Philip Roth and Edward P. Jones. The course concludes with a contemporary novel chosen by the students in the class.
  • PHYSICS 200: Introduction to Physics I: This course provides a thorough introduction to the principles and methods of physics for students who have good preparation in physics and mathematics. Emphasis is placed on problem solving and quantitative reasoning. This course covers Newtonian mechanics, special relativity, gravitation, thermodynamics, and waves.

Drawback: These are all straight up lectures. Viewing them is just like having a friend tape all your classes for you so you never have to attend a 9 am lecture again. It’s not bad though, if you want to have a “guest” lecturer cover a topic, without having to pay the speakers’ fee.

FRONTLINE/ … http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/view/

From Their About Us Page: Since 1983, FRONTLINE has served as American public television’s flagship public affairs series. Hailed upon its debut on PBS as “the last best hope for broadcast documentaries,” FRONTLINE’s stature over 30 seasons is reaffirmed each week through incisive documentaries covering the scope and complexity of the human experience.

I like them because: They are PBS’ premier documentary program and they always have videos that lend themselves, in part or in their entirety, to the classroom. They now have 138 videos available and because they continually add the most recent broadcast to their catalog, it is an ever expanding treasure trove of high-quality, reputable documentaries. A sampling of their latest offerings include:

  • Dropout-nation: Aired 25 September 2012. Education’s hidden crisis. Four students are followed for a semester to highlight the pitfalls they face in places considered “drop-out factories”.
  • Money, Power and Wall Street: Parts I – IV: Aired 24 April & 1 May 2012. Four part presentation that attempts to explain what happened in 2008 with the financial meltdown. Incredible narrative involving really smart people in charge of incredibly large piles of money with no one double checking their work. They fooled themselves into believing they were alchemists, instead of bankers.
  • Digital Nation: Life on the Frontier. Aired 2 February 2010: I’ve recommended this film on this blog before, but it is worth revisiting just to see how much has changed in less than 3 years. Even more than when this documentary first aired, I see young kids completely connected to their digital pets and disconnected from their surroundings.

Drawback: I don’t have much bad to say except that there are less than 150 titles to choose from, and many of them cover controversial topics in a very traditional documentary style, which might not keep all students interested. That’s not really a criticism of Frontline, but of the audience we’ve become.

Thank you for stopping by and I hope you find something useful.

Copyright © henry toromoreno, 2012. All rights reserved.

September Quick Hits

……………The school year is rolling along and we have started getting many visitors to the LMC’s labs and other spaces. As may have already noticed, you cannot book the LMC Labs 1 or 2 through the online iSchool site. This is because there are still a few details that we need to work out. In the meantime, please visit us at the circulation desk to inquire about space availability in the LMC. Lab 2 is currently being used for MAP testing, so be sure to sign up as quickly as you can if you need to use lab 1.

 ……………While we plan on expanding the number of workstations in each lab to 35, this will still mean that our resources will be stretched during certain periods. We have students enrolled in Virtual High School classes, and in Writing and Engineering courses that require computers, so please make sure to call us at extension 1143 before sending a student to the library.

…………….On another note, we are very excited that we have started getting in our book orders and among our new fiction are:

……………I’ve mentioned in earlier posts that we’ve been expanding our graphic novel collection. Many students come in looking for popular manga titles, but we just don’t have enough money to subscribe to all of those. Instead, I select graphic novels that may supplement our curriculum and also offer students who enjoy the visual medium a way to access literature they might not otherwise read. This year, among the titles we’ve obtained are:

……………Of course, I am also always looking to expand our non-fiction collection. Especially nowadays, when we have so many exciting things happening that are connected to complex scientific undertakings, I believe it’s more important than ever that we graduate students who are aware of, and understand, what is happening around them. Fortunately, nowadays there are a number of capable and accessible writers who produce books that are great reads and informative, to boot. Here are some titles, we’ve recently acquired:

……………I also wanted the readers of this blog to know that I am currently checking and updating all the major links to this site, as the internet has changed and evolved in the five years since I started blogging. Already I have discovered a number of broken and outdated links, so my apologies to anyone who has come here looking for something, only to arrive at a 404. I will be more vigilant in the future.

Hope you find something interesting and useful, and thank you for stopping by.

Copyright © henry toromoreno, 2012. All rights reserved.

My Sketch Up Obsession

               Well here it is, Sunday. I hope you had a great week off and that you are ready for the home stretch. I thought I was going to spend my week playing with the new Mac Book Air that I received right before the break. (Thank you to everyone responsible for getting that wonderful new tool into my hands; from the Superintendent all the way to every tax payer, I hope to use it well). While I did spend about an hour or so getting familiar with it, especially the photo booth feature, I ended up turning back to my own laptop for all my personal uses.

One of these uses was teaching myself to use Google’s Sketch Up 3D design tool. I first mentioned Sketch Up in a post back on Novemer 16, 2008. At that time, I started the program and explored a few of the features, but I didn’t have the time or a reason for learning to use it. On several occasions, as I passed by the A wing, I have seen Mr. Cosgrove’s classes using the program, and it always appeared to be something that was a lot of fun. I just never seemed to need such a tool.

Then one day during vacation, my brother-in-law (who lives in the same town, but whom I never see because that’s just how it goes sometimes) stopped by, asking if I could help him draw a plan for his backyard deck. He carried with him the original plans we had made more than a decade earlier, after a holiday meal. I used to have some cheesy “design” program published by Better Homes Gardens and my brother-in-law still had the printout from that app. I told him that I would be happy to help him with his plans, but that I no longer had that software. This is when I thought of using Sketch Up.

               I downloaded the software, which took no time at all, and started it, thinking I would be able to use it with no tutorials or practice. Everything about the program was familiar; the work area/field, the toolbars, zooming in and out using the wheel on the mouse. After about ten minutes, however, it was clear that I did not know what I was doing. I was thinking and drawing as though I was using a flat two dimensional surface, and Sketch Up is a three dimensional tool. Frustrated, I turned to pen and paper and my brother-in-law and I drafted the plans for his deck the old fashioned way.

Later on that evening, I returned to Sketch Up, determined to learn how to use it. I watched the first two tutorial videos to learn the basics about navigating in the program and how to use the simple tool set. That was enough to get me going. At first, I was happy just making big boxes with uneven rectangles for windows. I learned that cut, copy and paste work pretty much the same, except that they occur in three planes, which can get tricky if you’re not careful.

After mastering the basics, I created the simple patio for my brother-in-law that started this whole learning adventure, but my curiosity was piqued. I started wondering what other things I could do. Could I make a “simple” map of the high school library that I could use in the future? I started imagining a 3D map of the LMC with all areas labeled that would let people take a “virtual tour”. What the hell, I thought, I’m on vacation. How much work could it be to make a simple map?

Needless to say, I ran into problems immediately. How big is the LMC? How tall are the doors? How deep is the pit? What are the dimensions of the pit? How big is the office I sit in every day? Suddenly, I had all kinds of questions to answer. Even if I knew all of this, how would I furnish the area? I still haven’t explored all of the Sketch Up drawings that are available, and anyway, I was kind of hoping to learn more about the software by building all kinds of things.

               That, however, became one of my problems. My obsessive compulsive side took over and I found myself designing everything from file cabinets and lounge chairs, to computers and eventually, giant robots. The more I drew and cut and copied and pushed and pulled and rotated and grouped, the more I wanted to do it.

What is mind blowing about the application is that you can be thinking about the layout for a 150′ x 125′ room one minute (that’s what I ended up estimating the LMC to be) and the next minute you can be designing the 1/4” RCA plugs for the computers that will sit on the desks. I’m still having fun playing around Sketch Up, and hope to complete the LMC library model to use for educational purposes. (At least that’s what I’m telling my wife every time she catches me “playing” around.) Have a great day, and hope to see you all tomorrow.

P.S. After working for hours and hours in a virtual three dimensional world, zooming in and out, panning around the x, y and z coordinates, it was weird coming back to writing a linear post.

Copyright © henry toromoreno, 2012. All rights reserved.

BONUS: My Secret Robot Project

 

 

April Quick Hits

Happy April Fool’s Day. No tricks coming from here, just a couple of quick hits for now.

  • CNN this week is going to have a series of programs about Kids and Race, hosted by Anderson Cooper. Race and racism has once again grabbed the headlines in national news, due in part to the Trayvon Martin shooting in Florida. Cooper and CNN had apparently planned this special, however, before that tragedy focused the nation’s attention on race, having commissioned a study over a year ago in preparation for this program. The show will air nightly the week of April 2 at 8 and 10 pm on CNN.
  • Congratulations to my HHS colleague and fellow blogger, Darshan Thakkar, who just recently published two more books and has another on the way already. One of his blogs, Trends in Multimedia Instruction is included in our blogroll and is of course, recommended reading. His books, Web Based Machine Translation: History, Models, and Lessons for the Secondary Language Classroom and Remembering New Words in a Second Language, are available at the links provided. We look forward to hearing more from Mr. Thakkar in the future, and learning all we can from him.
  • Google is so much more than just a search engine, but many people aren’t even aware of the many other things you can do with it. Our television and media guru, Mr. Brandon, passed along this find called The Comprehensive Guide to Google Free Tools for Teachers and Students, to me, and now I would like to share it with you. Among the many topics covered are how to use Google Sketch Up, Google Reader and Google Scholar. I’m not convinced it is the final word in all things Google, but it is easy to navigate and includes a number of short videos to cover each of the topics. (The author of the site and presentation claims to be a teacher in Canada and a computer enthusiast. I explored his posts for about an hour and have bookmarked it for future use.)
  • Any casual reader of this blog knows how often I turn to TED Talks to share an inspiring or mind blowing video. TED Ed is an offshoot of this great site, aimed at a younger and perhaps less technically inclined audience. It uses more animation and visual aids than the usual “talk”, but I hope that makes it more accessible and fun to watch. In How Simple Ideas Lead to Scientific Discoveries, Adam Savage (co-host of Discovery Channel’s Mythbusters) demonstrates two breakthroughs in thinking that came from simple observations. While the channel is still very young and therefore limited in its collection, the other topics include such interesting titles as “How Containerization Shaped the Modern World” and “Evolution in a Big City”.
  • Serendipitous YouTube Find, Leonel Toromoreno’s Art Studio @ Perkins Academy. I still paint, draw, sketch and doodle to this day because of the huge influence that my uncle, Leonel, had on my childhood. He was an art prodigy if I ever saw one, replicating the paintings of the Renaissance masters using what he could afford; pencil on canvas. I spent hours as a kid dressed in oversized clothing, modeling as a waif for his still life drawings. Today, like so many people in my family, he is an educator, sharing his time and his gifts with the next generation. I was excited to find the video linked above showing off some of the work he’s doing in his classrooms.

Thank you for stopping by and I hope you found something worthwhile.

Copyright © henry toromoreno, 2012. All rights reserved.

Web Tool Roundup

               It’s been a while since I last shared information about online tools. I am an avid user of Open Office, Audacity and GIMP, all of which are free software available online and comparable to their commercial counterparts. I also mentioned CeltX, a writing tool that helps you organize larger works like books, plays, and screenplays, but which truthfully, I haven’t used much since downloading.

               My interest in finding out what else is available now was piqued by a clever version of Bloom’s Taxonomy that I happened to find thru Google Images. While I am familiar with a few of the tools pictured, such as YouTube and wikispaces, there are a number of others that I have never heard of, but look promising as classroom tools. What follows, is my quick tour of six of these tools, beginning at the bottom of the pyramid and climbing upwards. Of course, I also provide a link so that you may explore them for yourself. 

REMEMBERING/ Wordnik: As online dictionaries go, wordnik is an interesting version which includes definitions from five other sources, including the American Heritage Dictionary and Wiktionary. It also offers examples of the word defined, used in sentences from various quotes including contemporary uses.

UNDERSTANDING/ Bubbl.us: As a student I always loved graphic organizers. Anything that could make note taking more entertaining was a plus as far as I was concerned. Even today I occasionally rely on a good Pro/ Con list, an outline or a web map. Bubbl.us is easy to learn, easy to use and like the best tools on this list, does not require you to register for anything. I was able to learn how to customize my graphic organizer in about ten minutes, and best of all, you can export the final image as a  JPEG.

APPLYING/ Scribble Maps: As its name suggests, this online tool allows you to add your own “scribbles” to any map. Using Google’s mapping tool as the background, scribble map gives the option of drawing over a geographic, satellite or hybrid map. You can add symbols and notes, and can even upload your own images to personalize any map. There’s nothing to download and you don’t have to register to use the tool, unless you want to save your creation. You can, however, print without saving, which is a plus. 

ANALYZING/ Create a Graph: This online tool, which is hosted by the National Center for Education Statistics, has been around since 2005 and it really is pretty elementary in its presentation and capabilities. With that said, it is still a wonderful introduction to the main types of graphs and charts used to illustrate and analyze data. No registration is required to use the tool, and the information can be printed or saved in a variety of formats, including the familiar PDF and JPEG.

EVALUATING/ GapMinder: Hans Rosling made a fascinating presentation of just this kind of information mining technology in one of the TED Talks recommended on this blog. Now this is available online for teachers and students to be able to look through and make sense for themselves. All kinds of information such as, Adults with HIV, Causes of Death, Foreign Aid Received and more, is available for use in many ways. Students can view the information in Spreadsheet form, download the data or “visualize” the data online.

CREATING/ Make Belief Comix: Illustrations don’t come easy for everyone, and this little program allows those less artistically inclined to be able to create a “comic” strip. Easy to learn and simple to master, this online tool is not a high end creation tool, and will not make anyone the next Seth MacFarlane or South Park creators. I could imagine it being used to create political cartoons for social studies classes or as a way of illustrating foreign language exercises. Entiende?

 Thank you for your time and for stopping by. Have a great Sunday and enjoy the game.

 Copyright © henry toromoreno, 2012. All rights reserved.