Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Yeah, Right: How I met Wordle...

No wonder "words"is the most common word in this post!!
Every teacher will tell you that there were certain moments in their teaching lives where students inspired them to create certain teaching techniques or just come up with an interesting idea. Sometimes this can also be an idea for a little research, which happened in my case. It wasn't the discovery of Wordle, as you might have guessed, but another aspect of how Wordle can be used. Wordle is a word cloud generator which creates a cloud of words using the most common words in a text. The cloud is designed in a way that the most common words are written in large fonts and the less common words in smaller ones. The text can be provided either by copying/pasting it or typing the URL of a website or a blog. I use Wordle a lot because it is a great tool to start your lesson, especially a reading class. You can make students guess what the text is going to be about or you can highlight unknown target words. You can spend a substantial amount of time in class with one word cloud but that is a topic for another blog post.

So, while working on one of those clouds in one of my classes, a student asked me how to use this application. I told him about the website and asked him why he was interested in it. He told me that he was going to live in the U.S.A for a while. He wanted to download all the subtitles of "How I Met Your Mother" episodes and copy them into Wordle. This way he could get a cloud of the most common English words from the lives of hip/cool single people in their 30s. This way he would know the basic English words needed to survive in such a culture. I thought that this was a great idea. This would be something like a corpus study of "How I Met Your Mother". I don't know if he did it, but I knew I would do it. And I did. I didn't just use "How I met Your Mother" but other popular series such as "Dexter", "Mad Men", "Community" and "The Office" (both the UK and American versions). 

Friday, May 27, 2011

Te@ch Me Prezi Part 4: Adapting a Reading Text

Prezi is one of the leading Web 2.0 applications embraced especially by language teachers since it has the capacity to present information in a completely different way. In my previous Prezi posts, I have tried to show the basics of how to create a Prezi. In this post, I am going to show one way of using a Prezi in the reading classroom. Using Prezi as a tool to accompany the reading class can be an efficient and fun way to address the students' perceptions and their desires to experience something different. Here is how you can do it:

Monday, March 14, 2011

Class Blogging Tips and Tricks: How to embed objects into your posts

Class Blogging Tips and Tricks: Embedding Objects

One of my major topics when I hold training sessions on blogging is how to embed certain objects into your blogs. These objects can be videos, Prezis, Scribd documents, etc. The procedure is very simple: Find the source of your object (YouTube, Vimeo, Prezi, etc.), look for the embedding code (which is always somewhere on the page) and paste it in your post (NOT in the composing area, but in the "Edit HTML" area). All seemed to go well until I noticed posts like this:

What happened here is that the object is too wide to fit into your posting area. Every blog has a posting area with a certain width. Before embedding an object, you should have an idea about approximately how wide your posting area is, so that you can avoid problems such as seen above. There are two ways to avoid this problem:
Solution #1: Adjust the width of your template:

Adjust width by moving slider
First go to Design==>Template Designer==>Adjust widths. Here you can adjust the width of your blog by moving the slider. You can also change the width of your sidebar. However, sometimes, the problem continues because in some templates the maximum width is still not enough to accommodate your videos. In this case, you have to get to the root of the problem, which brings us to the second solution:

Solution #2: Adjust the width of the video:
When objects (videos, Scribd documents, Prezis) are embedded into posts, their widths and heights are predetermined by the source site, such as Youtube or Prezi. In the past, the width and height information used to be only in the embed code (HTML code) but now you can determine these specifications before you copy the embed code.

Click "embed" in YouTube to see size options                     Change width manually in the code

After you click the "embed" button in Youtube, you will see that it offers a selection of sizes that you can choose from. When you click one, the code will automatically change. Previously, I had chosen a 640pxs width, which was too wide. This time, I will try 560pxs and see how that works out. It is a little game of trial and error to get the right width size number, but you have to do that  only once and then you can use the same number for all of your embedded objects. However, there might be sites where this option is not present. Then you will have to do this manually. After pasting the embed code into your post, just search for a line that has the word "width" in it. You will see that "width" is followed by a number just like the code in the YouTube example. Change the number to a size number that will fit your posting area and the size of your video will change.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Class Blogging Tips and Tricks: How to open link in a new window

The emergence of blogging services like Blogger and Wordpress has made blogging a very easy experience. A lot of teachers have started to blog in search of finding new ways to make students become more active in the language learning process. Teachers blog to share resources, videos, pictures and all kinds of information with their students and the rest of the world. All of this makes blogging a rich experience both for the teacher and the student.
With these posts, I want to share my solutions to little problems that our teachers have encountered during their blogging experience. I am sure that others out there had the same problems and are looking for ways to solve them. Well, here they are:

One recent problem that teachers encounter with their blogs is with Blogger's "link list" gadget. They use this gadget to provide students with useful links such as dictionaries, video sites, or grammar and vocabulary sites. However, their complaint is that whenever the students click the links, the sites open in the same window instead of opening in a new window. The same is valid for links that are given in a blog post. They, too, open in the same window instead of opening in a new one. Obviously, teachers want their students to continue reading their blogs while browsing dictionaries or other reference sites. Unfortunately, Blogger does not have a setting where you can enable such a feature. After extensively searching the internet, I have found the solution to both of the problems. Both can be solved by making little changes to the HTML code:

Friday, February 18, 2011

Te@ch me Prezi Part 3: The Bubble Menu

The Bubbles:

The Bubble Menu
The Text Editor
1. Write: This is the default bubble when you first start your editor. When in write mode, you can use your canvas to insert (write or copy/paste) text. You place your mouse anywhere on the canvas and click once (not a double click!). When you see a cursor flashing on your canvas, you can start writing. The moment you start typing, Prezi will open the text editor. In the editor, you can align your text and decide whether you want it to be part of a title or a body. Once you click "Ok", your text will become an "object" on your canvas, which you can manipulate at any time. Don't forget that everything you place on your "canvas" becomes an object that you can manipulate (zoom in, zoom out, rotate, etc...).