Friday, February 8, 2013

Exploring those sites you never knew existed!

Using the directory link:, I explored numerous sites that I can easily see complimenting my course.  After registering either through facebook, twitter, or by creating an account, edutecher recommends a variety of sites to you.  On the sidebar, though, you can also select specific criteria to narrow your search such as subject and grade level:

1.)  After selecting World Language and High School, I instantly noticed the site; UClass (United Classrooms)  The icon grabbed my attention right away.  When I first began teaching, I had my students write to penpals in other countries.  It was always a favorite activity of ours, but the time between receiving  the letters, sending them, and then receiving another was too long.  It ended with students only receiving 2 or 3 letters a year.  I had hoped that eventually I would find a site that would do this all electronically.  Over the years I had tried a few, but they all seemed to cost money or overtime had more advertisements than members. 

UClass allows me to pick the countries with whom we would like to exchange letters as well as find other teachers from all over the world with whom I can connect and collaborate.  Each week there is a different topic for discussion and some contests that students can enter on a particular theme. 

In evaluating the site, the overall appearance was clean and easy to follow.  The directions to register and enter information were also very user friendly.  There are no annoying and/or inappropriate ads. that pop up or line the side margins.  It is free!!  You can also share this site with parents for them to join in.  Anything that includes parents into my curriculum and my classroom is an A+ for me!

The only real difficulty I had is that I had to sign up an actual classroom to begin posting in the forum.  For the time being I have signed up my children to see what kind of response I get to the question I posted:

Profe Wert11:43 a.m., Feb. 8, 2013

Hello from a snowy Bucks County Pennsylvania, USA. I would like to set up correspondences between my high school students and students in a Spanish speaking country. Is anyone interested?

I will update my blog as to any responses I receive.  If this site really does connect me with another class in a Spanish speaking country, this will be an extremely valuable site for me.

Of the next two sites I previewed, I was really disappointed with the actual sites.  The first, dot SUB was an online video translating program.  The concept is that it will take any video and translate both verbally and with subtitles in to any one of 35 languages.  As a Spanish teacher, this would be an incredible site for me.  There are so many times I download videos online from Spain to show to my classroom and it would be really helpful to at least have the English subtitles.  Unfortunately, it had a free 30 day trial but never listed the actual costs.  You had to instantly upload a video that you had created for translation.  The directions were very difficult to follow.  At that moment I chose not to continue. 

The next site I tried was elovivo.  The concept behind this site was a word to word translator.  Again, it was not what I had hoped it would be.  I typed it my first phrase to translate and nothing happened.  I logged out, logged back in, and then tried again.  Again nothing happened.  It also had a language exchange section in which it would match me with someone else who spoke Spanish that wanted to learn English.  Again I tried that link and nothing happened.  After spending so much time on these two sites, I was reminded of why technology can really frustrate me, too!!!

 2.)  The next site I joined made me feel much better.  Free Rice 2.0  is a site not only dedicated to building vocabulary, but to helping to feed the world.  This site is sponsored by the United Nations and the World Food Programme.  I had heard about this site before, but had never visited it.  As per the diagram below, just about any subject matter can be reviewed. 


As students answer questions correctly, the words get harder.  10 grains of rice are donated for each answer.  I made it all the way to 950 grains of rice before the Spanish / English exercise stumped me!  The words do recycle themselves and over those 95 questions about ¼ of them repeated, but the words really do get harder quickly. 

I can see my more advanced students doing this as a supplementary activity.  The words are very random; everything from days of the week, to verbs, to weather, to body parts, to conjunctions, etc.  As most language lessons are thematic, students would need to have some background in the language. 

I went on to visit some other sites that I will explore more in depth later.  The nice thing about edutecher is that you can create your own backpack.  I was able to click on backpack on the sites that looked interesting to me so that I could easily find them later.

3. )  The final site I joined was Babbel  This was by far the most impressive site I found.  This is a site dedicated to teaching foreign languages.  Again, I chose to explore the Spanish lessons.  I first did the trial and was so impressed I went on to join the site.  At this point it is all free.  I do have a feeling as I go on it may eventually charge me some sort of membership fee. 

The site is based on thematic units.  The first unit I did was greetings.  What I loved most is that it hits all the learning styles in the way it presents the information.  First you see three terms.  As you click on them it shows you a picture representing the word and then pronounces the term(s) for you.  On the next screen it has you match the Spanish term with the corresponding picture and English translation.  The next screen has you spell the word.  It gives you the letters to help you.  If you spell something wrong, it highlights the error in red until you choose the correct letter.  Next it puts those three

words/terms into an actual conversation.  I loved this!!!!  It instantly allowed students to apply what they had just learned.  While in the conversation, little explanations will pop up to help clarify something or make you pay attention to a specific detail.  The entire time you still hear the correct pronunciations.

babbel example

 In evaluating this site, other than the cost, I was really impressed.  The site is very easy to use.  The format is sleek without any distracting links, advertisements, or graphics.  You really focus on the language.  I could easily direct my students on how to get started. 

(I went on and completed the first two units and then it did end up charging me a fee to unlock the entire program.  Unfortunately, I don’t see the district paying for this site, but I may share it with my students and they could do it on their own.  It is really worth it!  I will contact the developers to see if they would offer a site license for a school district or maybe even run a pilot program with me to see how an entire class could use this.) 


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