Turn any iPad ebook into an audiobook

One of the new 200+ features that have been added or updated in iOS 5 is the ability to speak a highlighted selection of text. A great possibility of this is to turn any ebook, website, document etc in to an audiobook. This could be of great use for use in elementary classrooms and for children and adults with learning disabilities.

To activate this feature, go to Accessibility under the General tab in Settings (see picture 1 below) then turn on Speak Selection. Then open your ebook (I’ve been using Kobo online and Kobo reader on iPad recently – it’s great), select the text to read aloud and choose Speak (picture 2). You can alter some settings, such as the speed of reading in the settings.




EdTech tips and tools from the week – 2nd Sept 2011


Reading – 6 Reasons Why Kids Should Know How To Blog

  • A great summary of why students should learn to blog at an early age. If I were to add to this, I would definitely add that blogging:
  • is a motivator to write – particularly for boys,
  • blurs the boundaries between school and home. Kids learn to use blogs as a personal expression space, which in turn allows them to feel more confident to express their learning to the world. As a teacher, you gain a wonderful insight in to who the students are as learners and as individuals.
  • allows students to see technology as a production tool (beyond word processing) rather than just a place to play games and connect with friends.

Reading – The role of ICT in the PYP

  • My apologies for those who are reading this and aren’t in PYP schools, but I don’t think I can link the PDF here due to copyright. For those of you in PYP schools, talk to your PYP co-ordinator to get your username and password for the OCC. Do a search for the document called The role of ICT in the PYP. It’s only recently (June 2011) been revised and published and I have to say that the PYP have hit the nail on the head.

ReadingNumeracy for Preschoolers (thanks to @davidwees)

  • A nice blog post from David sharing his thoughts on the importance of developing numeracy with preschoolers.

SlideshowEmbedding Digital Citizenship into Curriculum

  • While there are some slides that don’t mean much (as this is part of a workshop presentation I think) there are some real gems in there. For example, slides 11, 12 and 14, just to name a few.



File Convertors (free and online)

  • www.zamzar.com – converts pretty much any document, image, video, ebook or audio format to any other alike format. I’ve personally found it great to be able to access the information on a Microsoft Publisher file when using my mac laptop (as there is no equivalent to publisher for mac that I’m aware of). There are loads of other uses however.
  • http://media.io/ – I discovered this one earlier in the week when I needed to help a teacher convert a midi file to an mp3 format. This file convertor converts pretty much any audio format to any other audio format. Clean look and free from ads too.

Voicethread for reading records

  • I’ve come across this wonderful set of voicethreads this week, via @sherrattsam.
  • I’ve used voicethread before, and seen it used, in many wonderful ways. But the idea of using it as a collection of oral reading samples from throughout the year is terrific! Imagine at the end of the year, you’d have a great selection of books and texts that the child had read that year, each with its own picture, and then the reading sample attached to each one. When it’s completed for that year, you’d be able to sit and literally listen to the progress in reading skills and see the increasingly complex texts throughout a whole school year, in 10-20 minutes. Wonderful!

Tech tools for ESOL

This post is partly a chance to share and partly a hope that you can share with me. I have a French speaking student in my class, who 2 weeks ago couldn’t speak a word of English. Over the last two weeks, I have simply been trying to build some vocabulary and basic phrases.

I am incredibly thankful for modern technology that has provided me with translation tools and teaching tools. Here are some that I’ve made use of. Please share any that you’ve used or know of that may be helpful in learning English for the very first time.

Google Translate: brilliant for translating words and simple phrases. I’m not too sure of it’s ability to translate more difficult phrases and chunks of information. It’s also got the ability to speak the words in the translated language – great for letting kids see and hear new vocab.

Spelling City: Great resource, not just for spelling practice, but great to build up the vocabulary for important daily words. Lots of different activities and once again reads the words. Some activities build up word recognition, while others work on understanding.

Professor Garfield: This one’s been very useful for building phonetic understandings and also has some stories that are read to the students.

iPhone App – English/Francais, Accio Pack: SOOOO handy for translations from English – French and French – English.

Have you made use of, or know of, any other useful apps or websites to help ESOL learners build up their English skills? Please share below.

Don’t forget to teach

“It’s OK, you don’t need to be an expert!”

“Learn alongside the students”

“The teacher is the facilitator of learning, not the master of knowledge”

We’ve heard it all before – heck, we’ve even used them before. Catch phrases that have led many of us (me included) to forget that we do actually have a responsibility to teach our students. Teach them to read, to write, to speak confidently, to ask questions, to be responsible, to learn…

Today I was reminded of the importance of the idea of explicitly teaching students after a terrifically successful reading session. Our learning focus, or WALT as we call them (We Are Learning To…), was ‘WALT discuss what makes an active reader’.

As we use the workshop model here, I began to think about my introduction lesson. How to engage these Grade 4 students in the idea of being an active reader? Some ideas that came to mind:

  • brainstorm with the kids,
  • think, pair, share: what skills do you use when reading to make sure you are an active reader?
  • chart paper questions – have the students move around and comment on ‘How do you remember what you’re reading?’, ‘What do you do if you don’t understand something in a book?’, etc
  • write about what you do as a reader

All valid ideas, but then I remembered my objective. I want these kids to know, not remember or hope that by some chance one of the kids can read my mind. No, I want them to know! They need to know what makes an active reader. So I did what sometimes comes uncomfortably to some of us… I taught! That’s right, no student input, no questions for them, no asking a friend. Just listen!

To know what an active reader does, they had to see it, so I chose a picture story book (any will do) and shared some of my active reading skills as I read the book to them.

  • I asked questions: “Why are the soldiers in the house?”, “Why do the kids need to hide?”, “What does pendant mean?”
  • I made connections: “Oh, that reminds me of when …”, “That must be where the title of the book comes from – the girl said the same thing right here”.
  • I linked to prior knowledge: “This story of migration is like when many people from China moved to Melbourne during the gold rush”
  • I shared thoughts: “Wow! That must be scary for the kids”

Sure enough, quickly I had kids chirping in ideas, questions, connections – they were being active readers. At this point I read 2 more pages and then invited the kids to share some ‘active reading’ with a partner. Following this, the students headed off to a quiet spot in the room to practice their ‘active reading’ skills using their independent reading books – those that are at the just right level.

For less than a week and a half into our school year, I am thrilled at the number of kids who were able to share with me some of the questions they asked of the book, some of the connections between the ‘Horrible Histories’ events and modern day events (eg. Black Plague to H1N1), and some of the ideas that sprung to mind.

So, while we need to reinforce that learning is a life long process, and that sometimes we don’t have all the answers, we need to keep in mind that much of the time we actually do have the answers. So let’s stop asking the students for the knowledge and skills that we can share with them.

Reading Assessment EARCOS Workshop

Reading is important! I have just finished a 2 day workshop presented by Carrie Ekey on reading assessment and teaching. The workshop covered aspects of the reading continuum developed by Bonnie Campbell-Hill, a variety of assessment of reading methods (many of which weren’t anything new – I’ll get back to this), how to organise the myriad of assessment and a range of other aspects related to teaching and assessing reading.

As I mentioned before, many of the ideas presented are nothing new; guided reading, anecdotal notes, independent reading, just to name a few. This was assuring to me because these are many things that I am already doing in my classroom.

One of the things that really impressed me from this PD is that one of the best ways to fit in the huge amount of teaching and assessment that is required of teachers in today’s ever shrinking time frame is to teach in ‘workshop’ style sessions. What is a workshop style lesson? It is a chunk of time that is dedicated to a particular curriculum focus where there will be a range of learning and assessing happening, with different students involved in different learning experiences or assessment experiences. The responsibility of learning is pushed on to the children more and more, particularly as they get older. The role of the teacher in these workshop sessions is incredibly complex and varied.

Let’s take the example of the reading workshop that Carrie Ekey was presenting at this workshop. The session would start off with some type of explicit teaching from the teacher, focussing on finding word meaning in context for example. Some modelling of the skill would take place before the students are given some time to practice it under the close watch of the teacher. The students would then be encouraged to continue to practice this reading skill throughout the session and obviously, beyond.

Following this, there may be some independent reading time to allow the students to continue their reading, putting into practice the skill just learned. The teacher would now step into an assessment/teaching role by conferencing with individual students, finding areas that need to be improved, teach how to improve this and then move on to the next child.

The next step is to move into a period of learning experiences where the students move on to individual or group tasks that allow the students to develop reading and the teacher to assess and teach reading. Some examples of learning activities would include literature circles discussions, guided reading, practice tasks/worksheets, word study activities, etc. The teacher’s role during this time is varied from day to day. Some days the teacher may be conferencing with individual students, others would be overseeing literature circles discussions, others running guided reading sessions, and others taking anecdotal notes on students’ work.

The session would then finish with a form of summary. This might include paired reading with pairs of students reading together, the teacher sharing observations, or students sharing work.

These workshop style lessons have also shown great success in my classroom with writing and I have occasionally tried this in my maths classroom too, with some success. I need to learn more about how this can work in the maths classroom. What I do know however, is that this approach to teaching and learning is one that engages the students, encourages independence with their learning, and allows for skills teaching, practice and assessment in a manner that makes sense.