Friday, 12 December 2014

Memrise - how to create your own "mem"

In Memrise's own words:

What is Memrise?

Memrise is an online learning community where one can learn almost anything in the world, entirely for free! Through just the right mix of science, fun and community, learning on Memrise is speedy, enjoyable and lasts.
Most people I know who have used Memrise love it. It's available both on the web and on mobile devices. The mobile app is still undergoing improvements as I write. I know because I'm helping them test their betas. ;) My recommendation is to use both.

Every so often, I create my own reading/listening activity based on current news and I usually include a lexical exercise. But, as we all know, retaining vocabulary is extremely difficult and most students forget the words they learn almost immediately after.

Since I had some time on my hands, I decided to create a course on Memrise based on these said activities. One of the strongest features of Memrise is their mems (basically, mnemonics) and although I've created a mem or two for each lexical item, my mems very often are just sentences showing how the word was used in the article of the activity.

I encourage students to make their own mems as, really, that's a good way of helping them remember the words, but it seems that many don't understand how it can be done. So, here's a short pictorial tutorial. ;)

Say, you've gone into my course. You'll see something like this.

How to create a mem on Memrise

You may choose to review what you remember by clicking on Review, which will bring you to this screen.

How to create a mem on Memrise

Clicking on See answer will bring you to this one.

How to create a mem on Memrise

Now, click on Choose Another Mem.

How to create a mem on Memrise

You'll see arrows to the side of the mem. Click the right-facing arrow and you'll see the next one. When there aren't any more, you'll see the following image. I know, at the moment, creating a mem isn't as straightforward as it should be. Hopefully, that will change in the near future.

How to create a mem on Memrise

Before clicking on Add a mem, have a look at Memrise's tutorial on creating good mems.

How to create a mem on Memrise

How to create a mem on Memrise

How to create a mem on Memrise

How to create a mem on Memrise

How to create a mem on Memrise

When you click on add a mem, this is what you'll see.

How to create a mem on Memrise

Write any key words you like in the search box and click on search images. When you find one you like, click on it and then save. If you don't want to use any image or you wish to upload your own, skip the search, which will bring you to this:

How to create a mem on Memrise

Type in your text. The bold and italic option only works without images. Don't ask me why.

How to create a mem on Memrise

Click save and you're done. You can modify your mem at a later stage if you like.

I look forward to seeing your mems! Feel free to voice any doubts you may have.


Sunday, 1 June 2014

The World Cup - all the words you need to know

Shunsuke Nakamura taking a free kick
Image by Neier reproduced under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

"The most direct and enduring way to reach the mind and imagination of the learner is through the mind, imagination and character of the outstanding teacher." Lowell Milken

Well, I don't know if Fabio Capello is an outstanding teacher or not (because I don't agree with his concept of football), but back in 2011, he claimed to be able to reach the mind and imagination of his English players with a mere 100 words.

Cambridge Dictionaries didn't waste any time in reacting and came up with the 100 words here.

However, if you fancy yourself as a top manager, you may want to disagree with Capello, and reach out for the full Cambridge Corpus list of 935 football words.

Meanwhile, contend yourself with looking for the 100 words in this wordsearch. Note that attack appears 3 times! As a noun, as a verb, and it its gerund form: attacking. :D 

And, enjoy the World Cup!

Oh, the way to play it is to click on the first letter of the word, drag it to the last word. However, I think there may be a problem - I used the hyphen in some words and I think it got confused with it. Oh, well, nothing's perfect! Have fun anyway!

Make Your Own Word Search

Friday, 25 April 2014

Don't be outfoxed. Foxit!

Several months ago I was ranting about a problem with my browser; it had frequent problems and I suspected that it had something to do with Adobe software incompatibility issues. PLN to the rescue, and Cherry Matthew mentioned that he'd stopped using Adobe Reader some while ago and had opted for something called Foxit instead. 

And there I was thinking that Acrobat was the only free pdf reader available! Silly me. After the usual barrage of Q&As, I decided to put it to the test. I might have tested a few others, but I honestly can't remember. Whatever the case, it was Foxit Reader which remains on the computer.

Originally, all I wanted was to have a PDF reader which wouldn't clash with my browser, and which was light and fast. But if you use pdfs as much as I do, then you may lament the difficulty of scrolling up and down pages, you may miss sticking Post-its or scribbling notes like you could do in books, and suffer the tediousness in keeping track of documents if you're in the habit of having several open at the same time, etc.

I, therefore, didn't take long to try out some of the tempting buttons on the toolbar and once I started using them, there's no turning back. I'll outline just some of them here. Incidentally, Foxit is also available on mobile devices. And, in case you're wondering, you don't need to have Foxit to be able to see the annotations; in other words, they can be seen by other readers.

Snapshot of some Foxit capabilities












Typewriter


Type directly onto the document. Great for writing answers on exercises.


Note


Pin a note. Unlike Post-its, these aren't likely to disappear! This and the typewriter function are probably the ones I use most. The great advantage is that it can be moved out of the document, so you can have notes on both sides of the screen, away from the original words/images. What you can't do is to edit individual words within the note; for example, if you wish to highlight some words or use a different font, you can't.

I've requested this function so I'm hoping Foxit can and will allow it. Another function I've requested is to be able to write phonetic scripts, something which isn't supported right now.


Highlight


For those of you who are fond of using markers, fret not! This one's especially for you. There are two places you can do this from - in the comment menu, it's on the left, and in the home menu it's towards the centre. You can also change the colour & opacity by right-clicking on your highlighted area, then choose properties.


Drawing


You can draw circles, squares, rectangle, polygon, you can draw lines or arrows, multiple lines or freeform.


Textboxes and Callouts


These have to be within the document but have the added advantage of giving you the ability to edit individual words within the box (see Note section above).


Pin an image


You may wish to include an image on the document. You can do this by using the Image Annotation on the right of the toolbar. To see the original size, however, you'll have to click on the Image Annotation button, right click on the image, choose properties. Go to Settings.


Bookmarks


Adding a bookmark is easy. You can use the functions on the navigation panel on the left, on the top toolbar in home menu, or Ctrl B. However, I find moving the bookmarks up or down somewhat problematic as Foxit has the habit of nesting the bookmark within where you drop it off. The way I get around this problem is to move it all the way to the top and then move it down again to where I want it.

There isn't a sort function either. To avoid these problems, remember that Foxit adds the new bookmark after the one you last clicked on. In other words, before you add a bookmark, click on the bookmark after which you want to add the new one.

Nested bookmarks on Foxit


Navigating the document


I used to find navigating on PDFs a messy chore on Acrobat. Foxit's hand function is wonderful - works like a touch screen - so much so that I often try to use it on Google Docs and feel disappointed when I realise that the capability doesn't exist there!

Alternatively, you can just use the standard page up/down or the arrow up/down for more minuscule movements.

Furthermore, Foxit allows tabbed browsing, so jumping from one document to another is a breeze; just remember to save your modifications although you will be reminded if you have made any unsaved changes.

Tabbed browsing on Foxit Reader


Printing/Sharing


Of course, you may not want to share all the annotations you've made on the document. You may want to share a document and your notes with a colleague or you may want to print some pages (without your comments) for your students. You have 3 options of printing: document, document & annotations and annotations only. Having a toggle function where you can make the annotations disappear would be great if you want to beam up, say, some exercises, and then toggle on the answers. I've also requested this feature.


Other functions


There are loads of other buttons you can play with. You can link to websites, insert video, copy texts and images, etc. Copying doesn't always work because of the nature of the pdf format. Having said that, it's certainly easier to copy on Foxit than Adobe! You can either select text or do a snapshot. If I managed to copy texts, what I usually do is to paste them onto Notepad and rectify any discrepancies.

Manual

For the official manual, click here.


Feedback


So, what do you think? Are you using Foxit already? If you are, what do you most like/dislike about it? If you aren't, what do you find most attractive about it?


Sunday, 13 April 2014

RSCON5: Maxis and Minis


Be Inspired in MiniCon May

This year, the free Reform Symposium Conference will be held over the weekend of 11th to 13th July. The interesting addition is that prior to the marathon event, there are 2 mini half-day conferences, one of which was held on 6th April. Unfortunately, that coincided with the IATEFL in Harrogate but recordings are available here. If you'd missed that, you might want to get involved with the next one, to be held on Sun 6th May. Take a look here to see the exact time in your city.
What’s happening in this MiniCon?
For starters, we have teacher-poet Chaouki M'kaddem to open the event for us.
Chaouki will hand the mic over to super tech guru Steve Wheeler, more famously, perhaps, known as @timbuckteeth. Needless to say, we’re over the moon to have Steve as our keynote.
Following this, we’ll have 7 inspirers who will give a 3-5 minute sneak peek at their forthcoming presentations in RSCON5. We had 8 in April’s MiniCon and we ran a little over time, so we’re reducing it to the magical number of seven. These speakers have yet to be decided. If you’d like to be one of them, go here.
To wind up the half-day event, and leave you wanting more ;) tech smackdown comes on. Here, in just 2 minutes (per person), enthusiasts introduce us to their favourite app or web tool and tell us what’s so good about it. If you’re passionate about a tool, why don’t you tell the world? Fill in the form here.
For all other information, please visit Future of Education.
See you there!

Saturday, 26 October 2013

RSCON never sleeps...

For most people RSCON has come and gone. The weekend of 11-13th October 2013 might have been a mind-opener for some, a disappointment for others, but there can be no denying that it was a special event. It was completely online, completely free, and completely run by a group of dedicated unpaid volunteers. Unpaid in kind, but paid  in the knowledge that someone somewhere in the world would have been inspired enough to start the reform ball rolling in their community, their network.

I'd played a small part in helping the team in RSCON3, but as circumstances would have it, I found myself involved in a far greater scale than the previous event. Even while RSCON4 was still going on, we were already discussing the improvements we would like to see for the next event. Those who have continued to follow us in the social network would have noticed some of the groundwork being laid for RSCON5.

Here are some of the things that have been going on:

RSCON on Flipboard

RSCON4 on Flipboard



We have created a magazine on Flipboard to display posts that RSCONers have written regarding their experience of RSCON4.

If you wish to be included, fill in the form here: I want to be included!




When's the next RSCON?

The Reform Symposium has always been for the people, so we want to make that even truer by inviting everyone to have a say as to when they would like to have the next conference. Each day, it gets more complicated as more and more organizations (especially the professional ones with a significant budget as opposed to volunteer organizations such as ours with zero budget) jump into the bandwagon with the result that on any one day, you are bound to find a free webinar of one form or another.

Since a party is useless if no-one comes, we want the biggest audience possible, and we want to know which month gets the majority of votes. Have your say here: I want to vote!

I want to help!


We have started collecting names of people who wish to be part of the Reform Symposium community. Experience is not necessary; passion is! That's our motto. There are many ways in which you can be of help: design, promotion, presenting, moderating, training, etc. So, if you can spare some time to help others help themselves, fill in this form: I want to help!

RSCON on Facebook


RSCON on Facebook


Since we want to reach the maximum number of people possible and even the most non-techie person is using Facebook, we decided that it is the best platform for us to use to keep our followers up to date. So, if you want the latest juiciest information, be sure to "like" us!

In addition, we have also created an RSCON group as groups seem to be more user-friendly than pages! Join us:

I would like to propose a presenter

Now you can! Just fill in this form: propose a presenter. Remember passion is more important to experience for us!


Thanks for sharing our passion!


Saturday, 28 September 2013

#RSCON4 Reform Symposium 11-13 Oct 2013: Useful links

I won't say much as I'm sure you must have read plenty about RSCON, the Reform Symposium. Instead, I'll place some useful links here because I know how, sometimes, it's difficult to find what you're looking for. If you are still in doubt regarding any aspect of this incredible e-conference, just get in touch with me.

 

Twitter Lists

Apart from following the hashtag #RSCON4, you may like to follow the people who are making it all possible. Subscribing to the lists is best because names may be added from time to time.


Spread the Word

Write about it in your blog. Wear a badge. Tweet it. Tell everyone in the social media scene.


If you've written a blog post, have it included here: http://goo.gl/KvplSP

If you're a presenter or an EdInspire nominee, you should have got a personal message about where to get the badge. Otherwise, get in touch with me.

If you know someone who deserves to be nominated for the EdInspire award, here's the form.

Main website: 


Prezi (courtesy of Chris Smith @shamblesguru): 




Pinterest:



Volunteers

Join up as a volunteer. Help us moderate. To make sure everything runs as smoothly as possible, we need more MODERATORS from all the time zones! Go here for more details: http://www.futureofeducation.com/page/call-for-rscon4-volunteer-moderators

Remember that even though you're a presenter, you can still moderate the other sessions!

Practice:

You can practise by signing up for a free WeCollaborate room: http://try.bbcollaborate.com/trial/register.go

Training sessions

The 2 official training sessions are over, but you can watch the recordings.

There are two - they are similar. The links are given at the end of this post.

When you click on either link, you'll be asked to save a file called nativeplayback.jnlp
Save it where you can find it easily, on your desktop, for example.
When it's finished saving, open it.
This will start the recording. It may take a few minutes to load.
Click on play to begin the playback.

The whole recording lasts for 76 minutes although you can fast forward or rewind it.

http://goo.gl/TSgd3I
http://goo.gl/fTv8zM

If you're still unsure about participating in webinars and need extra training, feel free to contact me for a private session.

Bookmark this page. If there's anything else that I think may be useful, I'll come back here and edit.

I look forward to meeting you all in a week's time!

Schedule


Scroll down and click on your time zone.

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Punctuation..? A review

A review of Thomas Bohm's Punctuation..?

Definition 


Macmillan defines it as “the use of marks such as full stops or commas in order to write in a clear style”.

Oxford's definition is slightly wordier:  “the marks, such as full stop, comma, and brackets, used in writing to separate sentences and their elements and to clarify meaning”.

Edgar Allan Poe, the 19th century American poet and writer has been quoted as saying “The writer who neglects punctuation, or mispunctuates, is liable to be misunderstood.... For the want of merely a comma, it often occurs that an axiom appears a paradox, or that a sarcasm is converted into a sermonoid.” (Source: Dictionary.com)

Yet, punctuation has caused endless debates over the years, and one of the main culprits is the apostrophe.

Apostrophe 


Serious “apostrophers” walk around with a marker, correcting signs and notices; websites and organisations, such as TheApostrophe Protection Society and Kill the apostrophe have been created; and in 2009, Birmingham City Council removed apostrophes from all its signs! (Source: TheTelegraph)

Do you know that there is even an International Apostrophe Day (18th Aug)?

So, when I was asked to review a little book on punctuation, it didn't take much to convince me.

Simply titled, “Punctuation..?”, it is written by Thomas Bohm, who also did the childlike illustrations, adding a touch of wit to the otherwise dryish but clear explanations. The book is available in Central Books, Waterstones and Amazon.

“Punctuation..?” seeks to explain the functions and correct uses of 21 of the most used punctuation marks in alphabetical order, starting from the controversial apostrophe and ends with one of the most confusing for a lot of people – the semicolon.

Why does the apostrophe cause so much distress? Bohm says that the most common use of an apostrophe is to indicate possession although he didn't cite his source for such a conclusion. He's probably right but I can't help but think that it might be a close call with its use to show omission, eg can't, doesn't, etc.

What is more important, however, is Bohm's failure to mention what happens when the name of the person ends with an s, such as Dickens or Frances, or when talking about a singular noun which ends in s, eg class.
On the other hand, it is interesting that Bohm should mention “the apostrophe has largely vanished from company names”. Waterstones, for example, removed their apostrophe as recent as 2012!

Brackets 


Bohm mentions the round, curly and square brackets. Apparently, there are rules attached to them. Most of us, me included, use only the round brackets, but I sometimes use a different one if I need brackets within brackets and I also use the square brackets to denote if a verb is transitive or intransitive, or if a noun is countable or uncountable, as in the dictionaries. The curly brackets are supposedly for showing “a series of equal choices” whatever that means and square brackets are for showing a different tone or to clarify information.

The rest... 


Aside from the use of brackets, Bohm insists that the dash, the em dash and hyphen are all different. There is also something called interpunct, which is a small dot vertically centred between words. I don't know where to find this on my keyboard.

Bohm also states that the double quotation marks are reserved for quotes within quotes and the single are now mainly used.

I'm not too sure about this because I still see double quotes everywhere.

Conclusion 


As you notice, there are bits of interesting information scattered about in this booklet; some, you may know while others may come as a surprise. Rules about the usage of punctuation are readily available on the Net, but if you are one of those who prefer a hard copy at hand, I can heartily recommend this book. It's handy and small (35 pages) and does well what it sets out to do. I can't help but think, however, that an e-book version would serve as a better vehicle.


Thomas Bohm can be contacted at: http://www.userdesign.co.uk/books/