CruxLight Summarizes Online Content and Removes Distracting Clutter

The Internet is the first place learners of all ages now go when wanting to learn about something. One challenge for many is that there is too much information on some web sites. A compounding factor can be the way a web page is laid out. Sidebars, headers and advertising can make it difficult for a learner to focus on what he or she is after.  I’ve just discovered a Google Chrome extension that can help in a big way. It has potential to be an invaluable study or research tool.

CruxLight is a Google Chrome extension that summarizes content in web based articles and that can eliminate distracting clutter. When CruxLight is installed, it automatically summarizes web pages by highlighting the most important information in an article. The toolbar shown here appears at the bottom of web pages, and the slider can be adjusted to determine how much information the summary contains. Shown below the toolbar is a default summary.

By clicking on the ‘Change Mode’ button, a new page opens that contains only the summary, minus distracting clutter. This is illustrated below.

When CruxLight re-formats a page, the user may select a medium length summary or a de-cluttered version of the entire article. Helpfully, the summary or de-cluttered article may be shared, printed, or saved for reading later via Evernote or Pocket.

Wikipedia: The Greatest Free Resource of All

In my view, Wikipedia rates as one of the greatest human accomplishments of all time. In a mere 12 years, Wikipedia has become a credible online encyclopedia containing over 24 million articles in 285 languages. (4.1 million of the articles are in English.) Perhaps most remarkable of all, this invaluable resource has been created and refined almost entirely by unpaid volunteers.  This is meaningful work that hundreds of thousands of people have done, just because they wanted to do it. This is engagement!

There are many things I appreciate about Wikipedia, but one of the things I like best is that nearly 100,00 of its articles are offered in ‘Simple English‘.  As Wikipedia puts it, this is because “the Simple English Wikipedia is for everyone!” The explicit target is children, as well as adults who are learning English. One of the fundamental tenets of Universal Design and of Universal Design for Learning is that when we design for people in the margins, everyone tends to benefit. This is clearly borne out in the Simple English Wikipedia!

When it comes to Wikipedia, I have chosen to put at least a little of my money where my mouth is. Because I have contributed financially, this week Wikipedia sent me links to a couple of powerful videos that I want to share here. The first is a beautiful  portrayal of the children in the Amazon rainforest village of Palestina, Peru who created the Wikipedia article about their village.

The second video shows just a few of the many wonderful people, just like you and me, from around the world who have contributed to Wikipedia.

5 Google Chrome Apps for Learning and Practicing Typing Skills

I keep discovering more reasons for learners to make Google Chrome their default browser! In the Chrome Web Store are some great options for learning or improving keyboard skills. Some apps offer systematic drill and practice. Others are game based, and probably more engaging. There’s something helpful for everyone, and it can all be used on Windows, Mac or Linux!

Type Fu is a traditional systematic option for learning 10-finger keyboarding with leveled exercised. There is auditory feedback. Speed and accuracy can be measured and graphed. Settings allow for customization, including use of alternative keyboards (DVORAK, QWERTZ, etc.) This app is free of advertising.

Typing Club is another traditional systematic application for learning and practicing 10-finger typing skills. It looks as though it has been thoughtfully designed. As long as the user is logged in, he or she may save a record of progress, and can resume wherever he or she leaves off. There are multiple ways of logging in. I just used my Gmail account. Typing Club also offers a “Teacher Portal” for managing classes, or even multiple classes. For now, this high quality app is completely free and is not ad-supported.

Type Scout is a professionally designed commercial product intended for school-wide use, but any individual can go online and use it for free. Type Scout is another application for learning and practicing 10-finger typing skills. In addition to practice drills, Type Scout offers a Tetris-like game. There are no ads on the site.

Nitro Type is possibly the most engaging typing game available as a Google Chrome app, but it is probably not the best place for a beginner to start. This app is for building on basic skills that have already been learned. The game is built on an auto racing theme, and it is surprisingly sophisticated. It is possible to compete with other players who may be online. Signing up is easy, and does not even require supplying an email address. This app is ad-supported.

Z-Type is a basic but engaging skill building game, described by its developers as “Type to Shoot”. As the player types a key, the letter is shot out of the “sky” as it drifts down from the top of the screen. The level of challenge increases as the game progresses. Two game modes are available–normal and expert. Engagement is enhanced by optional music and sound effects. This app is ad-supported.

UtellStory – Excellent Option for Creating and Sharing Multimedia Projects

A few days ago, Larry Ferlazzo wrote about an online option for creating and sharing multimedia projects. After checking it out, I’ve concluded that it’s well worth sharing here!

UtellStory is a vesatile online platform for creating multimedia presentations that can include images, video, text, audio narration and musical background. The intuitive user interface makes Utellstory easy to use. “Stories” can be embedded elsewhere online, and they play well on iOS  and Android devices. All of this makes Utellstory well worth introducing to learners as an option for creative expression or for presenting and sharing what has been learned.

The  first UtellStory embedded below presents a variety of ways it can be used in a learning environment. The second demonstrates how easy it is to create with UtellStory.

Free and paid versions of uTellStory are available, with 30 day free trials available for the paid options. The developer has created this platform specifically with educators in mind, and offers an ‘Educator’ option for $50/year, that facilitates creation and management of student accounts.

‘Select and Speak’ by iSpeech Offers Another Excellent Option for Text-to-Speech in Google Chrome

The convergence of mainstream technology and what we have typically referred to as assistive or adaptive technology is gaining momentum rapidly. Voice recognition is one obvious example. Voice-to-text and voice commands are mainstream to the point of becoming almost ubiquitous. It is much the same with text-to-speech. Today, I want to draw attention to yet another  option for reading online content aloud that is readily available to everyone.

Select and Speak is a free extension for Google Chrome that provides high quality text to speech for any selected online text. Once installed, and text has been selected, there are three ways of having the text read aloud. You can click on an icon in the extensions toolbar, or right-click and use the context menu. Alternatively, you can use a customizable keyboard shortcut. This shortcut is ctrl + shift + s by default.

Select and Speak is available for multiple languages in high quality male and female voices. For English, there are options for Australian, Canadian, US, and UK accents.