Shake a Phrase

Today, I wished to talk about another App for Ipad/Ipod that is designed for language arts. I first came upon this app on the Apple Store website and it really shook (ha ha ha) my mind. However, it was on the official website that I got the real information. Basically, the app is used to create random sentences that can be used for many purposes by teachers and students alike.

Here is what it offers :

– Three main options :

  1.     The Shake It option : Basically you can tap or shake the device to create a new sentence according to five different themes (such as animals and monsters). You can also decide to click on a word to have its definition.
  2. The Story Starter option : The goal of this option is to offer the user the beginning of a story (usually a question) so the user can decide the outcome. Then again you have theme options and pretty much the same options as the Shake It option.
  3. The Quiz option : This is basically a quiz to practice parts of speech. The app gives you a sentence and you have to identify which words are nouns, verbs… You get points and it gets more difficult over time.

There is also an extra in the fact that you can save and share the sentences you like.

Here is a video that demonstrates what I just wrote :


What is great about this app :

– You can shake the device to create new sentences and having this interactive point of view is great for kids.

– As Macworld states it, it is entertaining to read silly sentences.

– There are great themes that are relevant to today’s students (Sports, Monsters …) which makes it a good tool for students.

– As The Nerdy Teacher reviews it, it is a simple and accurate app, making it easy to use.

– As TheGamerWithKids presents it, it is cheap (only $1.99).


What is less cool about the app :

– In the quiz section, as App review tells about it, you don’t have a reward for getting points, making points find of useless.

– The fact that the Story Starter only asks questions directs the idea of the student/teacher.

– It is great to have 5 themes, but there are only 5 themes. IT would be great to have like 10 or more themes so everyone can find his share of the lot.


How to use it in an ESL classroom :

– Have kids learn new vocabulary (it generates a lot of weird vocabulary).

– Class or individual story creation.

– Practice parts of speech.

– Even Sentence analysis for adults.

– Create a few sentences and have the students find a way to link those sentences together in a story.


As we can see, there are a lot of possibilities in a simple app with a simple concept. I think that for the price, it is a very valuable app for teachers.

Enjoy creating silly sentences.


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Today, I wish to introduce you to a tool for classroom organization called TeacherKit. It is an application you can use on your phone, tablet and computer to manage attendance, marks, data (it actually works with dropbox) and seating. All is available on their website and it also shows cool features such as passwords or distribution of the weight of the different grades.

Here is a video that shows how it works and what it can do :

What is cool and the advantages of this tool and how you can use it (positive elements) :

– You can put behavior notes for each of your students and, as teaching with ipad mentions it, you can keep track of previous classes and students. This makes it useful for ESL specialist since we tend to have the same students every year (most likely in elementary school).

– You can see how they are doing with a bar that shows their general grades.

– You can store all the student’s data in one app, as mentionned by Educreator in a blog 

– You can add pictures to the desks of your students. Imagine a young ESL teacher who has 200 different students to remember, problem solved.

– As Educreator in a blog mentions it, it is quite safe. Indeed, you can have backups with dropbox or email and a password is available.

– As Teacher cast mentions it, usually you can have different apps to do the same thing but with this tool, it’s all in one app.

– You can take notes of your lessons.

– It basically does the job of a TA, as appato mentions it.

– It’s free (and this is important)

What is less cool and the disadvantages of this tool :

– As dgreenough mentions it, it would be nice to customize the days of the schedule so it could fit with your school’s.

– There is not much creativity and the students do not have acess to it directly.

– It offers many tools but I believe it could be even better.

Anyways, this is still a good tool and, as one of their mottos says : no classroom without it.

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Wordle : a weird tool for great uses

Today, I wish to talk about Wordle, a great tool for lexical analysis that can be easily used by ESL teachers for certain uses. But first, let’s explain what the tool is.

Wordle is a free online tool that takes a text (you decide which) and converts it into a colourful page with different words that appear in your text. However, the beauty of it is that it chooses the words that are used the most and differnciates the different words by size and colours. This is how the website presents it :

Wordle is a toy for generating “word clouds” from text that you provide. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text. You can tweak your clouds with different fonts, layouts, and color schemes. The images you create with Wordle are yours to use however you like. You can print them out, or save them to the Wordle gallery to share with your friends.


To give you a better insight on the finished product, here is a text about memorization strategies I have used to create a wordle :


It is fairly easy to use since you just have to copy paste your text into the ”create” section. However, as I have foud out by trying to copy and paste the wordle into my blog, you cannot do it directly. Indeed, as I have found out in this google groups, the only way you  can copy paste it is by print screening the page and then process it through paint to have your word cloud only. You can, however, onpen the could on another window to make it bigger. By doing so, it is easier to precess it and the resoltion is better.

The wordle website also offers and advanced option but requires coding and you can also remove words from the cloud which is also great.

Why use wordle ? :

– As Steven Anderson states it, it is easy to use.

– It has many classroom possibilities.

– It is visually atractive and intuitive.

– Students and teachers can use it.

– It is free (which is great because a lot of tools out there aren’t)

– It can be easily used for self reflection.


Why not use wordle ? :

– You cannot copy paste easily your wordle

– As Phil Bradley mentions it, wordle uses web 2.0 which tends to crash down sometimes.

– As Sanjiv Kumar Alay presents it, wordle does not allow reediting once it is saved.

– There are other, maybe better alternatives (but also more complicated sometimes) such as Tagxedo.


How to use wordle in an ESL context ? :

1. Key vocabulary learning. Since it gives you the words that are the most present in your text, teachers can use this tool to show students certain words before reading or certain concepts that work together.

2. As these slides present it, use this tool to help everyone know each other by entering their names in a wordle.

3. Use wordle to convey a linguistic activity with parts of speech and different grammar points.

4. Use wordle to generate questions on a topic for the different main aspects will appear as keywords.

5. Use it to teach certain vocabs.

6. Use it to convey feelings that students have towards the classroom or others.

7. As suggested on these slides, use it for a poetry or writing activity where they have to use the words.


As you can see, Wordle offers many possibilitiers in a simple tool.

Go, and wordle!



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Today, I would like to introduce a new tool called Skitch. Skitch is a very simple way to annotate pretty much any document you want. Basically, it is used with evernote, another program used to take notes and create documents but today. My point today is to bring Skitch to your attention. It is a tool you can use with Windows, Mac or with a tablet.

If you want a brief overview of what Skitch can do, watch this video.

However, for those of you who are more interested in this tool and want to know what it can do, here are certain aspects of it. You can find all this information on the Evernote website :

1. You can create a new picture (by taking a picture with your tablet for example), use an existing one or just work from a blank page. You can also draw on map if you want to give indications.

2. To annotate a picture, a map … You just have to use the toolbar provided and it is very intuitive. It looks like paint but with a bit more options and of course, works on any document. There are different kinds of annotations, going from simple shapes to writing text. With Pixelate you can darken private areas of a picture or text. You can also highlight text, which is cool.

3. Once an annotation has been created, you can modify it. You can duplicate it, change its size, its color…

4. You can easily share and save your annotations on an evernote account and by using the sharing toolbar.

You can also watch this tutorial for a more information and applications.

Applications for Teaching :

Skitch can be used in different ways by teachers. For example, Steve lai proposes ways of using Skitch with his projector and his ipad to show different items to his class by pointing them and writing their equivalent in the student’s first language. He can also save them so the students can revise these annotations and he can also send it to parents.

Laura on Elearning Laura also loves this tool and uses it with her IWB and with Apple Tv as a drawing and annotation tool. She shows that it can easily tool with classes that have IWBs.

Personally I think it is really easy to use in a classroom. You can use it to show different items on a student’s assignment. For example, when I give feedback on certain assignments, I can just go to the students with my ipad and circle the different items that need to be improved and it is automatically saved on Evernote. However, you have to keep in mind that students need to have an evernote account and evernote, even if it is a great way, is sometimes not the best software but that is another issue.

On the Inquisitr, the author presents 18 ways to use this tool. We have already covered a lot of them but what is interesting is that he brings it to the social networking level and indeed, in teaching, you could use it to give feedback easily with students or even comment a project on social networks. As he points it out , students can also use it for asking questions or taking instant notes. For example, a teacher could ask a students to point the different parts of a narrative with this tool. Many things can be done.

Negative aspects :

On several blogs, however, users are complaining after the last update of the program. Unfortunately,  I did not get the chance to use the older version but some say that the creators have left out certain aspects to make more simple, leaving certain interesting features out. This blog is one example of these comments.

Another common comment is that it does not push the practicality enough. Indeed, softwares like photoshop can do better just as CNET proves it. However, for applications in Education and in ESL contexts, I believe the simple and intuitive touch that some complain about is what makes it valuable for teachers. We are not there to heavily modify pictures but to give quick annotations for students to follow and to give us visual cues and easy sharing. I think that from this aspect, it is a great tool.

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How to use GoogleDrive/Googledocs for ESL activities.

As an ESL teacher, I am called upon using ICTs in my classroom and two of the tools to be used are Googledrive and Googledocs. I will, in this post, offer the different ways of using these tools as shown by others and some that come from my imagination. I have classified the different uses in two distinct categories : Technical and creative.

1. Technical ways :

– Assignment collecting. This idea came from Susan Oxnevad who presented the idea that students can hand in assignement to the teacher making it an easy way for the teacher to collect them without using paper and without having to collect a lot of sheets that can be lost. She shows easy steps to do so. It is great for ESL activities for they can be tallied easily by the teacher. It can also be easily graded.

-Quiz correction. By making a simple quiz, the teacher can ensure an easy way to grade students directly from computers without having to correct on paper and transfer all the data from paper to computer, making it great for ESL exams and activities that require grading.

– Giving instructions and templates. I will use this tool in order to make templates for activities so my students can go directly on the googledoc I have created and do the exercise or activity I have given them. They will also be able to save them and work on them simultaneously.

– I will also use it, as the official google blog presents it, with my tablet (being an ipad). I will be able to have access to my students work and templates. I will be able to go around class and show different googledocs and even show live examples from other students who are currently working on a project to those who need them. It will make ESL activity sharing way easier.

2. Creative ways :

– Collaborative writing. This is probably the greatest way to use this tool for many people (including the teachers and parents) can work on the same document at the same time. There are different ways this aspect can be used for ESL activities. I will probably ask my students to do so for these tasks and I will also grade these tasks directly on the sheets given by my students.

– Brainstorming. With the drawing tool, students and teachers can build mind maps and other visual clues and effects. Students will be able to write as many words as possible for free writing sessions in my classroom with the help of this device.

– Optical Character Recognition. I will use this device that works with google docs. As seen on this webpage, this recognition tool enables you to scan and take pictures with ipads, phones or tablets and convert them into a googledoc document. This can be easily used for a creation task where you can show student’s works instantly and have the other work on it even if that same student is not working on the internet. The possibilities for ESL activities is great and I will surely use this device

– Reading. As Melanie Swider points it out, I can use this tool after Reading sessions for sharing comments or even, and this is the fun part, for modifying books and chapters with the optical character recognition. I will certainly go around in the class, pick a random page from a book that one of my students is reading and have a creative activity with my students on google docs where they can all interact on the same page by modifying certain words or sentences.

– Writing a progressive story. The students, as pointed out on this site, can write a progressive story with this tool since it is saved automatically and easily sharable.

-Creating a survey or research paper with all your class. I will surely use this with my classroom especially since the students can have access to the document and create graphs with my students as seen on this video. I will then be able to have one huge project with a bigger population instead of having multiple little projects with a non significant population .  I will be able to teach them the principles and different vocabulary units related to research.

These are the different ways I intend  to use this device. There are other ways but the other ways I will use this device are related to one of these. This is a great tool and there are so many ways you can use it. All you need is creativity.

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Camtasia relay

Last year, for a distance course, I had to prepare a powerpoint presentation for the teacher by using camtasia relay, a tool used to add voice while recording your screen. The first point you have to consider when you want to use this software, is the different advantages that the brand tries to demonstrate. I will comment these aspects and try to define them in a more critical point of view.  If you want a great overview of the software, see this document.

You can also watch this video for it gives a great overview.


1. It is easy to use.

The program is indeed really easy to use. You just click three times and thats it, your done.  Actually, I would say it is too easy to use and that makes it somewhat  not a very creative tool. You will be able to record your voice, even your face as algonquin college demonstrates it but that’s all. You can’t really modifiy anything and with some versions of the program, you can’t even cut anything from your recordings.  If you want to do so you can use camtasia studio and that’s the main difference between relay and studio.

2. Its ready to use.

Indeed, the program is really easy to install. If you have power point, you can expect the software to install itself almost instantly. Nothing else to do except register and most schools have already registered for you so great.

3. Its cheap.

Unfortunately its not free. However, I believe that for a whole school, the program is not too expensive.

Now that we have gone through the different aspects presented by the company itself, lets see what are some other aspects of the software :

– Its a great way to easily use flipclass. Indeed, it’s so easy that you will only have to click and that’s it, it’s almost done. Since you can also share it with others, its a perfect tool for it.

– It uses power-point and since almost everyone nows about power-point, it gives the tool great accessibility.  Since it basically records your screen, you can also use other softwares which makes it very easy to use.

– You can also use hotkeys so you don’t have to go around and play with your computer while recording.

The only negative comment I can give this tool is the fact that you can’t really modify anything. However, you can use camtasia studio in order to do so.

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Comic strips on the internet : which one to choose?

I am preparing an activity for grade 6 students and I decided to have them make comic strips on the computer. After researching on the internet for a software, I found what I believe to be the best of them all for comic and story online creation : Toondoo.

I will first tell you about the different ones I have tried and I will tell you why I didn’t choose them and why I choose Toondoo. I’m not going to have extensive descriptions and research on them since I want to concentrate on Toodoo but a comparative is always important.

1. Make belief comix :

Make belief comix is great for teachers how make strips and have the students fill in the balloons . For a creation activity where the students have to  create a story and make a comic strips out of it, however, there are definitly not enough options for them to be creative. Furthermore, you can’t save them online and you have to print the strips or send them by e-mail. Another problem is that the software only offers a three frame layout and the possibility for characters, backgrounds and such are not extensive which makes it an okay tool but definitely not the best one. Also, as Sarah Kessler shows it in her review of comic strips creators, colours aren’t really present in this software and rends it not very good looking after all.

2. Comic creator

Comic creator is approximately the same thing as Make belief comix but worst. Less characters, less props, no colours… lets say it is not the best and probably the worst one I know about. It may, however, be used for small kids since the pictures are made for them.

3. Toondoo

Toondoo is and will be my choice for comic strips creation for many reasons :

1. There is a fair amount of props, characters and backgrounds that come with the software. Almost all the themes are covered, sometimes not extensively, but it gives students the possiblity to do anything and that is a major point. On the same level, as a teacher’s guide to toondoo presents it, it offers the possibility to really transfer concepts and ideas into pictures and text. Furthermore, Toondoo  offers a creative path in the sense that there are two tools called TraitR and DoodlR which helps you create new characters and background. The program also offers different ways of importing pictures and other items to put in your comic strips.

3. The software allows the students to save their work online, to download them and to share them. This way it is easier for a teacher to leave feedback and see the progress of students. It is something most of softwares don’t offer.

4. As sgmires acknowledges it, toondoo offers so many possibilities that all types of students can find their share of the creativity it offers.

5. For the utility and application department, a wonderful webpage is offered at ICTAcrossCurriculum2012 where you can find a lot of ways to use toondoo and all its functionalities.

The only real problem I have found for this tool is that it is sometimes heavy for computers. It, sometimes, doesn’t work well for a short period of time. I guess it is the price you have to pay for such a great tool.

To conclude, I must say that toondoo is  a great program and that it should be used in schools for comic strips creation. I will use this program soon in an actual class for a term project and I will be able to experience it even more with the students and write more about it later on.

Go on and create!

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