Tag Archives: blog

Tumblr

In the world of social media, Tumblr lies somewhere between Twitter and a full-blown blog with interactive social elements that are similar to Facebook.  This combination has lead to exponential growth.

To learn more, I created a Tumblr.  So far, I’ve been using it to post links to relevant stuff I’m looking at, but may not be ready to create a long form blog post here at ESL Technology.com.  (As an aside, remember when blog posts were considered brief? #solongago)  Some of my posts there will develop into longer posts here, but many will not.  You can follow my posts to both on Twitter: @eslchill.

So far, I’m not a full-blown, hardcore Tumblrer.  Perhaps it’s because I haven’t sought out a network there, which is a potent part of the allure for most users.  By reposting the posts of people you follow, Tumblr creates an echo chamber that allows popular media to spread exponentially.

One feature I like is the ability to queue Tumblr posts and release them a day at a time.  I can post several items at once and release them one per day — thereby always having something “in the hopper.”  In this way, I am contributing to the constant stream of consumable media and helping to build my brand, neither of which I’m sure I want to do, but Tumblr sure makes it easy.

As you would expect from a popular technology like this one, setup is free and easy, the interface is relatively straightforward, and there are lots of themes available so that you can change the look of your Tumblr.

Will Tumblr revolutionize language teaching?  Probably not.  Just about anything you’ve been doing with WordPress and Blogger, and even Twitter, can be done with Tumblr.  The difference?  If your students are keeping up with the latest online trends, they likely consider traditional blogs to be passé and already have a Tumblr.

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21st Century Newspapers

rolled up newspapers

A long, long time ago (maybe 6 or 7 years now) I taught an elective ESL class centered around a student newspaper.  We tried various formats including weekly, monthly, and quarterly editions, which ranged from 2 to 32 pages.  We also experimented with various online editions, but at the time that mostly consisted of cutting and pasting the documents into HTML pages.

Fast-forward to 2011 and look how online publishing has changed.  Blogs are ubiquitous, if not approaching passé.  Everyone but my Mom has a Facebook page.  (Don’t worry, my aunts fill her in).  And many people get news, sports scores, Twitter posts, friends’ Facebook updates, and other information of interest pushed directly to their smartphones.

It’s no surprise, then, that a website like paper.li has found its niche.  The slogan for paper.li is Create your newspaper.  Today.  Essentially, paper.li is an RSS aggregator in the form of a newspaper.  RSS aggregators are nothing new (see iGoogle, My Yahoo!, etc.).  As the name implies, the user selects a variety of different feeds from favorite blogs, people on Twitter, Facebook friends, etc. and aggregates the updates onto one page.

The twist with with paper.li is that the aggregated page looks very much like a newspaper — at least a newspaper’s website.  For people not on Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr, paper.li might feel much more comfortable.  Also, publicizing one’s pages seems to be built right in to paper.li’s sourcecode.  I say that because I first learned of paper.li when I read a tweet that said a new edition of that person’s paper was out featuring me.  How flattering!  Of course, I had to take a look.

Would paper.li be a good platform to relaunch a student newspaper?  It might.  If students have multiple blogs, paper.li could certainly aggregate the most recent posts into one convenient location.  Other feeds could also be easily incorporated as well.  (Think of this as akin to your local community newspaper printing stories from the Associated Press.)  The most recent news stories about your city or region, updates from your institution’s website, and photos posted to Flickr tagged with your city or school name could each be a column in your paper.li paper right beside the articles crafted by the students themselves.  You could even include updates from other paper.li papers.

To see examples of paper.li papers, visit the paper.li website.  (And note that .li is the website suffix — no need to type .com no matter how automatically your fingers try to do so.)  You can search paper.li for existing papers to see what is possible.  A search for ESL, for example, brought up 5 pages of examples, some with hundreds of followers.  Take a look.  You might just get an idea for your own paper.li.

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2010 in review

automatic transmission

I got this auto-generated post direct from WordPress, which hosts ESL Technology.com, and thought some of it was worth sharing.  Every time I login to my blog, I can check on these numbers and other interesting data.  I can see how many page views I’ve had by day, week, and month as well as which pages were most popular and what sites are referring people to my blog.  More interesting than the numbers themselves are the fact that this data is so easily available that WordPress can automagically pull it together into a blog post for me.  (Incidentally, you can search “2010 in review” on WordPress to find other bloggers who have posted the autogenerated post.)

This kind of data is becoming easier and easier to work with — to mashup.  And all kinds of new software allows us to pull together lots of data in enlightening ways.  Governments that are making this kind of data available are finding citizens stepping forward to develop ways to make it more useful.  See Tim Berners-Lee’s TED Talk for a six-minute rundown of the highlights, below.

I recognize that the numbers generated for me by my blog are not as important as which roads are impassable after an earthquake in Haiti.  But, on almost every scale, this data is becoming easier to find, use, and mashup.  Some of our students may already be doing this.  Surely, many are not.  Developing the ability to work with this kind of data in very dynamic ways is sure to be an asset, if not an expectation, in the near future.

So, without further ado, my numbers.  Thanks for reading.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A helper monkey made this abstract painting, inspired by these stats.

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 13,000 times in 2010. That’s about 31 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 50 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 119 posts.

The busiest day of the year was August 4th with 95 views. The most popular post that day was OutSMARTed.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were twitter.com, esl.osu.edu, en.wordpress.com, en.bab.la, and google.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for esl technology, esl and technology, technology esl, technology for esl students, and kinesthetic learners.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

OutSMARTed August 2010
4 comments

2

Interactive Whiteboard FAQ (Wii) March 2009
16 comments

3

About Me July 2008
4 comments

4

How do I know my IR LED works? October 2008
1 comment

5

Projects August 2008
1 comment

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Phone Your Blog

phone

Who ya gonna call?

I’ve had this WordPress blog for about two years and have had blogs with Blogger in the past.  Both are good services, but I like the WordPress interface a bit better as well as the ability to have several static pages (inspiration, projects, and resources, for example).  Recently, WordPress announced a feature that Blogger had years ago but cancelled: the ability to phone your blog.

Once you’ve signed up for a WordPress blog, you can configure a special number that you can call and record a message that will appear on your blog.  I don’t plan to use this feature on this blog, but there are several reasons that this feature is mentioning.

First, this is a way to create digital recordings without any special equipment: no microphone, digital audio recorder, computer, mp3 player — just a phone.  The recordings can be downloaded, shared, and edited in the same way as any other digital recording.

Second, a student in an ESL class can make a recording and then others in the class can comment on it. This could be feedback on an impromptu speech topic, a dialog between two or more students, or any other oral interaction.  Comments could be based on language used, content, or both.  Many options are possible when it is this easy to share a digital audio recording.

All of this is possible with some content management systems (there are plugins available for Moodle, for example) but otherwise pulling all of the technology together to make this happen can be a bit of work, all of which is streamlined by simply calling your blog.

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Pronunciation 2.0

I don’t recall how I came across Rachel’s English but I was instantly impressed and have yet to explore its entire depth.

The first thing I found was the list of sounds represented by the phonetic alphabet.  There is also a sound chart that lists every sound a letter can represent.  Both of these have links to YouTube videos like the one above, which detail how to pronounce the sound.  I especially like the portion of the video that compares pictures of Rachel in profile as she pronounces the sounds with her teeth, tongue, and other relevant anatomical features drawn over top (for example, see the 3:50 mark in the above video.)  These photos are also available in the mouth positions section.  There are also other interesting exercises and a blog.

In addition to being a useful pronunciation resource, a lot of attention is paid to linking everything from various sections appropriately.  It doesn’t matter if you are looking through the sound chart or pictures of mouth positions; you can always link to the relevant YouTube video for a quick 5-10 minute tutorial on a given sound.

This is a useful site for students to work through on their own.  Perhaps more importantly it could be something teachers recommend to students to supplement classroom instruction.  If students are having trouble articulating a particular sound, email them a link to the video, then suggest they follow up with one of the exercises.  Working through some of these clear and informative tutorials might be just the extra help they need.

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Vorbeo: Easy Web Polls

Vorbeo: free and simple online polls.

Vorbeo: free and simple online polls.

Another recent resource that came across the Twitter stream (thanks @NikPeachey!) is Vorbeo, a custom online poll generator.

The most amazing thing about this tool is how simple it is to use.  The question, answers, and even the text for your “vote” button are customizable.  But, the best part is that there is a live preview of your poll that changes as you customize your poll.  When you’re finished, copy and paste the code generated by Vorbeo into your moodle or other web space.  Easy!

Making a poll with Vorbeo.

Making a poll with Vorbeo.

Now, you can poll your students, students can poll each other, and students can even poll the general public, if they can put enough people in front of the poll.

As an edupunk who likes to tinker with code on occasion, I also appreciate that the code changes as the poll is customize.  This is a great way to learn what each line of the code does.  (Incidentally, if you’d like to learn more about HTML, CSS, XML, and other scripting languages, try w3schools.com which has many examples and tutorials with live previews.)

Update: As slickly as Vorbeo generates web polls, it appears that these polls are not compatible with WordPress blogs.  Perhaps this is because WordPress already has it’s own polling feature using different technology or because it strips out HTML forms for security reasons.  Either way, trying to post a Vorbeo poll to a WordPress blog will neuter it (see below).  My other comments still apply, but check that Vorbeo is compatible with your application before counting on it in the classroom.

Do you like online polls?

Yes, the more the merrier!
Yes, occasionally
No, not really
No, I never respond to them!

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