Free Tutoring via TutorJam’s Access Program

A note from Nathan Arora, Co-Founder and President of Tutor Jam:

I know your time is very valuable so I’ll try to be brief. TutorJam (www.tutorjam.com) is an online tutoring company with offices in Waterloo, Canada and Chapel Hill, NC offering K-12 tutoring to students in math, science, English and social studies. A key part of our founding vision is to ensure that our services also address the educational needs of limited-income families through our Access Program. While we’ve seen excellent growth in our paid tutoring services, we haven’t been able to get the word out to families about the availability of our Access Program’s free tutoring services.

To help build awareness of this free program, we’re initiating a grassroots campaign among bloggers to help promote this service to their community.

While I haven’t used TutorJam, and I can’t attest to it, I do firmly believe in their mission to provide free tutoring to those who most deserve it, so that is why I am sharing their information here. I hope that it helps many of your students.

MakeBeliefsComix.com Online Educational Comics Launches WRITER PROMPTS to Help ESL, Literacy Students Write, Read and Tell Stories

A note from Bill Zimmerman at MakeBeliefsComix, a site I have written about before:

MakeBeliefsComix.com has launched a new WRITER PROMPTS feature that regularly offers educators new ideas to spark students’ imaginations and encourage them to write more.

The new writing tool is a direct result of the overwhelming positive user response to our free web site where children and adults create their own comic strips online and, in so doing, practice language, writing and reading skills. WRITER PROMPTS utilizes interactive techniques that I have pioneered as author, journalist and teacher to help people of all ages find their writers’ voices and express their deepest thoughts. Go to http://www.makebeliefscomix.com/Comix/ and click on the WRITER PROMPTS button at the bottom right to connect to these idea prompts at www.billztreasurechest.com/blog/.

At the WRITER PROMPTS blog site selected students’ written responses will be posted, reinforcing students’ writing and language-learning efforts. Please try the new feature and give us your feedback and suggestions. We also will post some of your own suggested writing prompts if you give us permission. Send them to billz@makebeliefscomix.com.

Since we launched our educational comics site in 2006 hundreds of thousands from 175 countries have visited us. And, Google and UNESCO selected MakeBeliefsComix.com as one of the world’s most innovative web sites in fostering literacy and reading (http://www.google.com/literacy/projects.html).

Some sample writing WRITER PROMPTS offered:

  • You are an author rewriting the story of your parents’ lives. How would you change their lives, what would you say? The wonderful thing about being a writer is that you can use your imagination to create different worlds from what you know. If you’re feeling unhappy in real life, for example, you might want to create a world in which you feel h appy. If you are poor, you might want to imagine a story in which the characters are rich. You can change a story about your parents or family into something entirely different.
  • Three children in different parts of the world wake up one morning, each expecting the day to be like all the others. For one, in Mexico, this will turn into the most important day of her life; for another, in China, the day will be the happiest she will ever experience in her life, and for the third, in Chicago, this will become his saddest one. Write one of the children’s diaries for the day.
  • You are a six-year-old Pakistani boy sold into servitude by his family to labor 14 hours a day in a carpet factory. Your enslavement will help settle a $16 family debt. You spend the next six years chained to a rug loom, working 12-hour days for pennies. Then comes the day when you escape to freedom — here’s what happens:

Users of MakeBeliefsComix.com make comics strips by selecting from 15 fun characters with different moods — happy, sad, angry, worried — and write words for blank talk and thought balloons to make characters talk and think. This site is used by educators to teach language, reading and writing skills, and also for students in English-as-a-Second-Language programs to facilitate self-expression and storytelling, as well as computer literacy. Some educational therapists use the online comics with deaf and autistic people to help them understand concepts and communicate. Parents and children can create s tories together, print them to create comic books or email them to friends. Others will find the site a resource to be creative and have fun.

Acting on your feedback, MakeBeliefsComix.com now also enables users to write comic strips in languages other than English, including Spanish, French, German, Italian, Latin and Portuguese. Many foreign language teachers encourage language practice by having students create comic strips.

Please share http://www.makebeliefscomix.com with your colleagues, students, friends or readers of your publications and favorite listserv groups. It takes a community to build and nurture a rich educational resource.

Sincerely,

Bill Zimmerman
(billz@makebeliefscomix.com or wmz@aol.com)

Props for Wikispaces

Anyone who has ever been in one of my classes or workshops knows that I rely on Wikispaces for almost all of my teaching and professional development. Read more about their new K12 initiative in this article.

A quarter million teachers to get free wikis | Gaming and Culture – CNET News

A San Francisco wiki services provider has just finished a multiyear project under which it gave teachers all over the world 100,000 free wikis. And now, it is doubling up and getting set to give away another quarter million.

The company, Wikispaces, decided in 2006 that it would make helping teachers use the collaborative software to further cooperation between students, both in their own schools and with schools in other cities and countries, a cornerstone of its business.

Kevin Gets Comical

Congrats to my NWP colleague, Kevin Hodgson on the publication of his new comic, Boolean Squared! He uses Comic Life for the basic layout and then fills in the pictures himself. It will be interesting to see where he takes this, both in terms of using the technology to produce the comic as well as the content of the strip itself.

Teacher creates comic strip aimed at the great ‘digital divide’ – Newspaper in Education – MassLive.com

The “digital divide” between kids and adults is at the heart of a new comic strip being created by Kevin J. Hodgson, a Southhampton teacher and writer.

Called “Boolean Squared,” and posted every Monday to the Newspaper in Education blog, http://blog.masslive.com/nie/, the comic strip peeks into the world of teaching and technology and uses humor to expose some of the misconceptions of both so-called “digital natives” (the kids) and “digital immigrants” (the adults) when it comes to technology and learning.

Grab the RSS feed and enjoy a new comic each week.

New IM Tool: MeGlobe

A note from Jose Rodriguez about MeGlobe:

We’ve created an Instant Messaging application, called Meglobe, that also performs real time language translation. I thought you might be interested in taking a look since it can be used as a tool for students and educators to collaborate globally across language barriers.  Meglobe is web based and supports 15 different languages. There are no bots to install or downloads necessary to utilize the translation features. Simply type in a message in your own language and Meglobe translates it into the language of whomever you are chatting with.

 

We’ve also implemented a contribution function where users can make improvements to the translations Meglobe performs. This feature helps to improve the accuracy of the translations by applying the contributions to the translation engine and also helps the system develop natural language patterns. Here is a link to a tutorial demonstrating some of Meglobes key features: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uR-O57jO6yI&fmt=18. I thank you for your time, if you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact me.

Haven’t tried it yet, but it looks quite cool and certainly contributes to students’ multiliteracies. Let me know if anyone gives it a shot.

Rough Draft Thinking for a Hybrid Professional Development Experience

Well, we have a hybrid professional development experience coming up on September 24th for the Project WRITE teachers. In trying to meet a number of constraints and opportunities, I have set up a wiki page for the evening’s activities. Here is some of my thinking about why and how this is set up this way, as well as a screencast of my thinking, too. I would be very interested to hear your feedback about how (and if!) you think this will work.

First, we had to have a way for participants who choose to go the hybrid route to both log their “seat time” for SB-CEUs as well as be connected to what’s going on. Originally, we had planned to use ANGEL through MSU, but for a variety of reasons, not the least of which we can not have enough guest accounts to invite all the Project WRITE teachers in, I didn’t figure that was the best idea.

Second, even if we had enough accounts, I didn’t want to have to have people log in to something that they were not familiar with and try to navigate multiple tabs on a night that they would be using a new tool, Jing, anyway. Thus, I wanted an easy, open way for them to both “login” and monitor their seat time, while possibly having a back channel for communication AND being able to get the stream without having to have a separate tab or media player open.

Third, and perhaps most important to me, I wanted to make sure that what ever we did was easy and accessible to the teachers, so they could replicate this process in their own classroom. After hearing about Meebo and UStream from many other edubloggers, and seeing that they could both embed in wikispaces quite easily, I figured that this would be the easiest way to go. So, I set up the Meebo chat room, the UStream channel, inserted them side-by-side in a table and, voila!

Now, I am sure that someone else has figured this out, and also I now realize that you can have a chat right on your UStream page if you want. However, I wanted to make sure that the interface was clean and connected to the wiki, so this type of embedding made the most sense. And, what is even more amazing is the fact that I don’t even know how I would have imagined doing something like this even a few months ago (although I am sure that the technologies existed then)… instead, this came as a solution to an institutional problem about how to both monitor seat time and create a workaround for the university’s sanctioned CMS that wouldn’t let us do what we wanted to do

So, this will be an interesting experiment in trying to figure out how to have a hybrid session, implementing digital writing tools while also teaching about digital writing tools. I am excited to see what comes of it, and look forward to any suggestions that you might have for me to streamline the process before we make a go of it here in about two weeks.

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Brief Review of Webb and Rozema’s “Literature and the Web”


Earlier this summer, Allen Webb and Robert Rozema published their text through Heinemann, Literature and the Web: Reading and Responding with New Technologies. I received a copy as a gift, and just got a chance to read it over Labor Day. Besides thanking the two of them for mentioning my blog in the book, I also want to compliment them on the way that they approach the task of teaching with technology.

The text makes the idea of using technology very approachable because they maintain a consistent thread through the entire text, one that focuses on how we ask students to respond to literature and how technology can support that response. So, beginning in the introduction, they ground their discussion of how to use technology in principles that guide good response to literature:

  • Entering the story world
  • Close reading
  • Understanding social, cultural, and historical contexts
  • Responding to the text

Throughout the text, they return to these main principles and discuss how teachers can use newer technologies to support these types of reading responses. This approach encourages me to continue thinking about how to ground discussions of technology and newer literacies in larger discussions of pedagogy, and not vice versa. As teachers design units of study and connect them to state standards, the text boxes in each chapter will help them connect back to these principles of reading response. The projects that they describe in the text all seem very doable, although I do wonder if some readers of the text will want more step-by-step instructions.

One technology that I wonder more about — as a response to literature — is digital storytelling. While I don’t fault them for not covering that topic in the text, as Rozema does a great job of discussing how he invites his students to create podcasts in response to literature as one form of multimedia, it is a question that I have more and more. What is digital storytelling? Is it a personal narrative, or can we call other forms of digital video production “digital storytelling? That is, if it is non-fiction, or a response to literature, does it count as a digital story? Or, does it matter so long as kids are engaged? Could his podcasting project be adapted (relatively) easily to digital storytelling? Also, what are the copyright implications when remixing chunks of literature already present on the web, such as in Project Gutenberg?

That side note notwithstanding, the text is sharp and full of examples. My favorite chapter comes in the conclusion, where Webb and Rozema discuss how to become a “web advocate.” “[B]eing a web advocate,” they argue, “means mentoring those around you.” I couldn’t agree more, and I look forward to learning more from the two of them, as they have been mentoring me for years. It is great to see their thinking captured in this text, so they can mentor others as well.