Saturday, 28 January 2012

Great search engines for teachers and students

There is abundance of search engines available and most of us resort to using Google (and I love it too). There are, however, quite a lot of new, less popular tools that help us find information on the web. I have listed here some of my favourite search tools, each for its own unique features.

Twurdy is a great tool for students because it sorts the findings according to the readability level, i.e. the texts that are easier to read and understand are shaded in lighter colour while the more complicated texts have a darker colouring. This saves the precious student time as they can choose to read the easier texts first.
The name "Twurdy" comes from a play on words with the question "Too Wordy?" - a quote from the website.

My latest favourite - instaGrok search engine - is rich and versatile and saves a lot of your effort and time which you would spend looking for the necessary information, related videos or images.
instaGrok not only finds quality educational materials, but helps learners make sense of them - a quote from the website.

instaGrok displays links, images, concept maps (cool feature!), definitions of related words and terms, videos and even quizzes related to your search, all well-organised and easy to access.

If you register, you can get a summary of all your activities on instaGrok by visiting the page myGrok. If you want your students to provide proof of their online work, ask them to register and share their myGrok page with you.

Oolone is a visual search engine which lets you preview the selected webpages instantly. I typed "climate change" in the search box and got these results. For people who love to see the things before they "buy" them, this tool is indispensable.

PhotoPin is brilliant just for one reason - it searches creative commons photos which are free to download without any fear of breaking the copyright rules.

If I were a kid, I'd love this search engine KidRex because it looks as if it has been made by kids for kids.
The tool searches websites that are kids-friendly and safe, the results are carefully filtered.
If I were a primary school teacher, I'd teach my students how to use this tool.


There is also a lovely gallery of kids' drawings.
"KidRex is the best Google!" ♥

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Webquest: Festivals and Holidays

Image by OLD SKOOL Cora
A few days ago I did an activity with my students which has been a little disregarded lately - the webquest.

I remember at the dawn of using computers for learning, webquests were rather popular possibly because other web activities had not been "invented" yet. Webquests meant students could get access to the computers and have a jolly time online, especially because computers were rare in their homes.

A webquest is a creative and dynamic activity requiring some web search skills. Students usually like webquests because they get a chance to spend a lesson in the computer room (if it is not homework) and do what most of them like - browse the web.

My 16 year old students had just studied the topic of festivals and traditions and what seemed to me a logical follow-up was their independent work on summing up the basic info about the most popular holidays. We did the activity in the computer lab and the hardest part was that the students did not have any links provided but had to find the information relying only on their own search skills.
The chart they had to fill in asked for the date and place of the original holiday, traditional food, drinks and activities.

Take a look at one of the charts completed by the student.

Here is the handout. You may print or download it. If you feel like removing some of the festivals I have included in the chart or add your own, go ahead.

All in all, it was a productive and win-win classroom activity.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

The Domination Game by @teflgeek

I learned about this fantastic game accidentally while visiting the teflgeek's blog. Great blog with a lot of useful ideas!
I immediately saw how I could use it with my students for revising certain grammar or vocabulary items.

The game is played in teams, four to be precise, and the goal is to win as many squares as possible.

I made a grid of 30 squares with numbers for the questions and some additional "home" and "centre" squares. I prepared a list of questions 1-30 which had to be answered by looking for answers in the course book.
The teams picked a colour and took turns in choosing a square and providing the correct answer. If the answer was right, the square took the team's colour. If the answer was wrong, the team lost the move and the square remained blank.

To make the game a little more challenging, the teams could get an additional point if they won 3 squares in a row (see squares 2, 11 and base) or 3 squares touching with their sides in a different configuration. They could also win one of the central squares if they surrounded it "by their colour" (see squares 9, 3, 15 + the central square). They could also surround the opponent's square on 3 sides and then the square was won over and changed its colour.
The original game was slightly different but I easily adapted it to the level of my 14 year old students.

To tell the truth, counting the points for me was the trickiest part as I was sitting at the computer and using Paint to change the colour of the squares right away plus checking if the answers given by the students were correct. In the end students helped me to count the points and made sure I did not overlook anything.
This is how the grid looked at the end of the game.

My biggest thanks to David Petrie whose idea I took, adapted and used very successfully. My students loved the game and, as usual in such cases, asked for more. I am thinking about it.

Just one question to @teflgeek. Why "domination"?