Sunday, April 21, 2013

Free Captioning Tools

Captioning tools allow uploading images and adding speech bubbles to them. I think using this tool can add a lot of fun to lessons, especially when we want our learners to create and/or tell a story.

One option would be to find images on the internet that could somehow fit into one story and then ask learners in groups to add speech bubbles to each image. Then they could compare their stories and vote for the best one.

Another option could be to ask learners to bring their own digital photos (these could be holiday photos, family photos, etc). Learners could work with their peers' photos and add speech bubbles to them.

I am sure each teacher will come up with more lesson ideas and I would love to hear/read your ideas.

Anyway, down to the tools. To test the tools I decided to use my own photo with a simple "Hello!" message.

The first tool I would like to talk about is Speechable.
The tool is free but requires registration. However, it takes only seconds to register and you can either upload an image from your computer or type in the URL to the image you want to be uploaded. When the image is uploaded you can doodle (draw/write) on it, add a speech bubble or just add a text. For doodling there is a great selection of colours, The text box can be moved around the image and placed anywhere you like and the writing can be in any colour. For speech bubbles you can choose among four types of bubbles, size and colour of text. After saving the image, you can go back to it to edit it. There doesn't seem to be an embed code, but by right-clicking the image you can save it onto your computer. Options for sharing in social networking sites are all in place.

The second one is SuperLame and it is a lot of fun to use.
This tool doesn't require registration and is free. The best thing about it is that it has an onboarding (guidance) system. A little arrow at  the top of the screen guides you through the process of creating the captions. It also has an option for adding what it calls 'Sound FX' and I just added all the possible sounds on offer to my image to let you see what you can have. The options for sharing here are either to email the image or to save it. But I don't think this a big problem. As long as you can save it as an image, you can upload it wherever you like.

The third one is DIYDespair
This one also doesn't require registration and is free. All the options are on the right-hand side of the image screen. However, this one doesn't have the fancy options of the previous one. The title and the captions can only go under the image and not onto it. But still, I think, some older learners may find the tool enjoyable. All the available options can be seen on the image below. 

The fourth site is Motivator
The name is the opposite of the third (Motivator vs Demotivator) one but it functions in the same way. No registration is required and it is free to use. But there are too many adverts on the website, so I don't think it is very good for children in case they click on the links advertised. The options are again next to the image screen and the captions can only be placed under the image not on it. In terms of sharing, it is again either email to a friend or download. 

And the last tool is PimPamPum. It doesn't require registration and is free to use as all the other ones. However, I didn't create an image with this one because to create a caption you need to add images from Flickr and as I don't have any uploaded images on Flickr and didn't want to use other people's images, I decided to give it a miss. But as many of you may have accounts on Flickr, I thought I will share this one with you too. I found a sample caption for you to see what can be created with this tool. I like the fact that it allows creating slideshows which makes the storytelling even easier. I hope you like it too.  

Thursday, April 11, 2013

IATEFL Interviews 10 April

Liverpool Online
I decided to spend the evening watching some of the interviews because there are quite a few that I haven't watched and I wanted to watch at least some of them.

The first interview I watched was with Jamie Keddie whom I really like for his enthusiasm and ideas. Jamie is also the author of a very good book called Images.

Jamie starts the interview by telling a story about a seal and a polar bear and actually because he didn't finish the story in his interview I got on his website and found the lesson plan and the video for it because I wanted to find out how the story ends. I assume that's the whole point of videotelling (a technique which combines traditional story telling with video): making the listener want to find out what happens next. I did!  Jamie's website has more lesson plans for any teacher interested in doing some videotelling in their lessons. The website Jamie recommends looking at at the end of his interview does have some interesting material.

Next interview I watched was with Jeremy Harmer and I love him a lot. Jeremy says that he is interested in finding out whether there is a relationship between the way people practise music and the way people practise a language. I also became interested in the question and did some Google searching. I found quite an interesting article which is written by Benny Lewis who asked about the similarity between language learning and learning to play a musical instrument on Twitter. Some of the replies are really interesting.

Jeremy Harmer refers to research which shows that the length of practice doesn't mean much if the practice is not deliberate, i.e. involving full concentration, problem solving, involvement and engagement. If we think of that then we may actually find that when we do something because we have to do it, we do not remember much of it later. This is the case with language learning in Armenia where many teachers ask their students to memorize texts which they do just to repeat the texts in the lesson but two days later they forget what it was that they memorized. Jeremy Harmer says that a little homework which would require problem-solving could benefit a learner more than a lot of homework which they would probably do while watching TV. I totally agree!

The last interview that I watched was with Vicky Saumell. She is a teacher who encourages the use of technology in learning. Vicky talks about getting learners work published online (wikis, blogs) and getting teachers and learners from other countries to comment on the published work so that learners know that there is going to be some interaction and their work will not go unnoticed. One project that she talked about sounded quite interesting - a type of videotelling but done by learners. I actually even found the wiki that Vicky was talking about. The amount of work that Vicky's students have done is impressive. Vicky also mentions online projects with other countries, the benefits of which I know from my own experience as we did one with a school in Uruguay last year and are doing another one with the same school in Uruguay and a school in Brazil this year.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Second Day of IATEFL Liverpool

Liverpool Onlinee
I started the day first by watching the interview with Deborah Healey who has arrived from the USA and this is her first time at IATEFL. I really enjoyed it because she was talking about use of technology and games in teaching. My cup of tea, really.

The basic point that I agree with is that teachers shouldn't tech the classroom without thinking about how their learners will benefit from it. We should have the learner in mind whenever we incorporate technology in the lesson plan. Nik Peachy actually asked a question that I always get asked by teachers: if learners play games, how do we teach grammar? As I have already discussed in my previous posts, we can teach many things through games: grammar, vocabulary, writing, speaking, etc.

At this point I was already getting the feeling that I was at IATEFL. Next, I watched David Crystal's plenary talk with 309 people online. Not too bad, is it? (I will not go into the plenary because by the time I decided what to blog about Graham Stanely already blogged about it). There must have been more people in Liverpool, but the online audience was also big. Unfortunately, I couldn't participate in the online chat, which was very lively, because I had some students writing tests and didn't want them to think that I was chatting and ignoring them, which might have been true.

Next thing to do was to get on Facebook to see what was going on. Some friends shared photos from presentations that they attended, some mentioned their own presentation. I wished them good luck. Marcos Benevides shared the link to Vicky Saumell's presentation which was very nice, because now I might even think that I was there as well as Hakan Senturk and Burcu Akyol.

Next I read our roving reporters Sanja Bozinovic, Branca Segvic and Addeh Hovassapian's reports on teh sessions they had attended and got a full feeling of being in Liverpool. Now I get down to teaching feeling completely happy. :) Later in the evening I know that I can watch some of the sessions and some more interviews, read more reports and see more photos. 

Monday, April 8, 2013

First Day of IATEFL Liverpool - Interview with Gavin Dudeney

Liverpool Online
The first day of IATEFL in Liverpool and I am on the IATEFL online website reading roving reporter's blog posts and watching some interviews. Actually you don't have to be in Liverpool to be able to enjoy the conference. I know that being there is better but not knowing anything at all is worse.

I was hoping to get away from my lessons to watch the livestream of LTSIG workshops but,unfortunately, I didn't manage to do so, which means that I will be watching the recording of the workshop. But that will do.

So the first interview I watched was with Gavin Dudeney. Gavin and his team are responsible for the online presence of IATEFL conferences and I have to say they are doing a great job. It only takes a second to log into Facebook and Twitter to know all the news related to IATEFL. It is easy to find out who is a presenter and which hotel they are staying in, where they are having lunch or what places of interest they are visiting. This sounds odd as one may think why someone would be interested in this, but, strangely enough, that gives you a feeling of being part of community and being present at the conference even when you are far away.

Gavin mentions that when 6 years ago they started the online part of IATEFL, everyone thought that people would stay at home and just watch it online, but I don't think this will ever happen. Gavin is right in saying that the face-to-face meeting with people who you know virtually or meet just once a year is a completely different experience. For those who couldn't go for whatever reason it is a good place to keep up with what is going on and still participate by posting comments or blogging about it. For those who did manage to go, it is a good place to organize meetings with friends after the conference as the conference hall is huge and you may actually be there for a week and never see somebody you know that is there.

Gavin also mentioned the book Digital Literacies that I have pre-ordered being on sale at the conference which actually made me want to be there just to get it because I will only get it by the end of May. But well, I suppose it is worth waiting for.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Word Cloud Generators

Word clouds have become quite popular tools for visualizing texts. Words in the cloud are single word tags, that show how frequently a word has been used in a text which is useful for understanding main ideas or concepts. Words that are bigger in size and thickness are the ones that are frequently seen in a text.

When we hear word cloud we mainly think of Wordle, but there are many more word cloud generators that could be better or worse than Wordle. So why not give them a try?

1. Tagxedo 
The site doesn't require registration. You start by typing/pasting in a URL, or a twitter/ ID, a keyword in the news or RSS. Then you choose the shape, layout, font and theme and click 'submit'. After the word cloud has been generated, you see a panel with more editing choices. When you are happy with the cloud, you can save it as JPG or PNG in different sizes or simply share it on the web.

2. ABCya!
A nice tool which doesn't require registration. You simply type or paste in the text and it creates a word cloud. This site doesn't accept links to articles that you would like to create a word cloud of. There is no choice in shapes but layout, font and colour can be selected. The generated word cloud can be printed immediately or saved, but in this case don't forget to add what format you want the image to be saved as. for example, I just add .jpg after the name of the file to save it as JPG image. If no format is specified, the image doesn't open.

3. WordItOut
The site doesn't require registration but when you have finished creating your word cloud it asks for an email address to which a link to your word cloud is sent. You just click on the link and can either download the image or share on various social networking sites. There doesn't seem to be an embed code but a picture can be uploaded onto any site, so that doesn't really matter.
Font, colours and size can be customized, but there is no choice of shapes and the layout of word tags is only horizontal.

4. TagCrowd
This tool doesn't require registration either. Word clouds can be created by either typing/pasting in a text, pasting a URL or even uploading a file which is quite handy. However, the word cloud created cannot be customized: there is no choice in font, colour, layout or shape. All word tags are horizontal on white background and of different shades of blue. The word cloud can be saved as a PDF file, but not as a picture. It can be printed and HTML code is also provided (but it doesn't embed an image, just a list of words), to add a sample image I had to make a screenshot of the cloud.

5. Tagul
You have to register first before you can start creating word clouds, but this is not a long process. You are sent a password which you can change after logging in.
To create a word cloud, you can either enter the text you want or the URL of the text you need..Next thing to do is to choose appearance, font, colours and click 'Visualize". When  the image appears, you can manually edit tags to get rid of articles, modal or auxiliray verbs, etc. After saving the changes, you need to click on 'Grab and Share'. Here you can either download the image as a picture file, print, get the HTML code or the link.

6. ImageChef
ImageChef Word Mosaic -
You don't have to register with the website to be able to create word clouds. However, if you want to save your creations onto "My stuff", you should. The site allows creation of not only word clouds but also of visual poetry, banners, sketchpads, etc. Before you start creating a word mosaic, you can choose a shape, a background and word colour and font. You need to type or paste in a text (but a small one, it doesn't work with longer texts) and the word mosaic will be generated. You can choose the size of the image, you can share it on almost every social networking site, embed it and grab the link. By dragging the image onto your PC desktop, you can also save it as a picture file.

7. VocabGrabber
This is a very useful tool for language learners. It doesn't require registration. All you have to do is paste in a text and click 'Grab Vocabulary'. It creates a word cloud a screenshot of which can be seen on the left.

It also shows how many words have been found in the thesaurus and allows you to create a wordlist.

And the beauty of it is that the word cloud created is interactive. When you click on a word, the site creates a snapshot of a visual thesaurus for that word;

provides the definitions of the word;

and gives sample sentences with that word in them.

8. TagCloud
No registration required to use this site. You cannot type in a text, you only have to paste the URL to convert whatever is on the site into a word cloud. The result is a very nice looking flash word cloud that can be downloaded as a zip file. I have taken a screenshot of the cloud because it cannot be added to the blog as it is, i.e. a flash word cloud. It also provides an embed code, but it only comes up as a list of words as can be seen below.
learning resources blended approach face classroom instructional materials course time online addition used state blend students content higher

9. YouAreYourWords
The site doesn't require registration. All you have to do is to upload a picture whcih you want to be the background of your word cloud, then paste the text and choose colours from a limited range. You can also choose the font. You can then share your word cloud and/or download it as image. The product looks nice, but I am not so sure about its use in education as it is a bit difficult to read the text.

10. Wordle
This site doesn't require registration. The downside is the size of the embeded image - it is very small. To solve this problem, you can either click on 'print' and then save it as a PDF file, or, alternatively, you can make a screenshot of the image after saving it to the public gallery.
Another problem with this site is getting word tags using a link. If the site, the URL of which you have pasted into the bar, doesn't have Atom or RSS feed, Wordle cannot create a cloud. However, pasting in a text usually bypasses this problem.
Font, size, colours and word tag layout are customizable, but the shape cannot be selected.

And finally, a Slideshare user vreed17 has added a presentation with 40 ideas for word cloud use in education.

Forty Interesting Ways To Use Wordle In The C from Vreed17

Word Clouds generated using the article at PennState