Friday, December 17, 2010

iPhone app for "on the fly" translation

Introducing "Word Lens" for the iPhone

I usually prefer to review apps that teachers can use directly in the classroom with kids, but I couldn't pass up blogging about this one. True, not every kid will arrive with an iPhone, but the newest iPods and iPads will soon have cameras ( so this app could be used by more than just phone owners.) In some ways, watching this app in action is like watching magic!

Word Lens translates from English to Spanish and vice versa "on the fly" via the camera. You see the street sign "magically" switch languages right on your phone screen. Although the dictionary is limited to two languages for the moment, this app has tremendous potential. Each language "pack" costs $4.99, and I imagine more languages will be available soon. I would love to see a version that works with Asian languages: Chinese, Japanese, Korean, etc. 

While the translation is not perfect, I think it leverages the tremendous power that smartphones are placing in the pockets of many of our students.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Storybird - an easy, fun storytelling platform

Today I read a post in the School Library Journal by Christopher Bell talking about an online storytelling tool called "Storybird". 

As the Storybird site explains, they "are short, art-inspired stories you make to share, read, and print. Read them like books, play them like games, and send them like greeting cards. They’re curiously fun." Christopher Bell agrees. (Here's a link to his blog post: LINK.) One of the great features is that you get to choose from a range of very nice artwork to build your story. Students get a very professional looking product right away. This allows more focus on the storytelling part of the task. A nice feature for the parents of budding authors is that the final version can be printed as a coffee-table book. (Perfect gift for Granny!) The only thing lacking is an embed feature and the nifty flash page flip found on other sites. (Although, this does make it more iPad friendly.) With a screen capture program, you could even record the student's voice as s/he narrates and flips pages, and then the resulting movie could be shared with others.

Storybird Quick Tour from Storybird on Vimeo.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Read URLs in another language: a translating bookmarklet

While machine translators are not foolproof, they can certainly help bridge some of the communication gaps for the user. I've tried the Google bookmarklet by translating a page into French (which I speak) and, guess what: it's not too shabby! Your beginning ESL students will thank you. Simply visit the page below, and find the appropriate target language button, and drag it to your address bar. So easy.

"Add a translation browser button to your browser's Links Toolbar to translate web pages or pieces of text with a single click. While surfing the web, if you find a piece of text you'd like to translate, select the text with your mouse and click the browser button. If you want to translate a whole web page, simply click the button."

Try it right now by clicking HERE.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Determining Readability - with just one click!

So you have a class with a range of learners (who doesn't) and you are trying to differentiate your instruction by choosing a range of reading material for the project your students are working on. You know that you can use something like EBSCO to search for articles because it will give you the lexile reading level of the articles you find. But what about articles on the internet... is there a way to determine the reading level, easily? Why yes there is. I happened across a site called "Read-able" (The Readability Test Tool) which allows you to plug in the URL of a page you are considering and it reports back the readability using a number of different metrics. Their motto: "Let's make the unreadable readable."

As they say on the site:

The Readability Test Tool takes the text on your web page and gives a score for the most used readability indicators.
  • Flesch Kincaid Reading Ease
  • Flesch Kincaid Grade Level
  • Gunning Fog Score
  • Coleman Liau Index
  • Automated Readability Index (ARI)

You can even get a bookmarklet to drag to your address bar so that you can easily (one click!) get a sense of the page. This is a great tool, well worth checking out.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Add text-to-speech to your browser

vozMe lets you add a speech synthesis bookmarklet to your browser. Select any text as you browse, click the vozMe button in your browser and you will hear the text in a somewhat mechanical Irish accent (male voice). This is a great way to add accessibility to the browsing experience.  Putting the bookmarklet on your classroom computer browser 's menu bar means a student with some text challenges could have the page, or part of it, read to him/her. With some discrete earbuds, no one else needs to hear!

See this link to install the bookmarklet. (Choose from a female or a male voice.) The resulting mp3 can even be downloaded. The voice has a certain "Stephen Hawking" quality, but is sstill quite usable.