60 Second Recap: Valuable Video Resource for ALL Students of Literature

If you are a student or teacher of literature, and you aren’t already familiar with this resource, you owe it to yourself to check it out. For effective learning to occur in any classroom, it’s essential that information be presented in multiple formats. It’s just as important to offer a range of options for engagement. This site helps beautifully on both counts.

60 Second Recap is a web based resource, and an iOS app, that uses short video clips to introduce great literature in a manner that I suspect most learners find highly engaging. Each clip is well researched and skilfully written. Production quality is exceptional. The target audience may be high school students, but these videos completely engage this learner, and I haven’t been a high school student for more than 40 years!

Authors whose works are introduced range from Homer and Shakespeare to the likes of Charles Dickens, Joseph Conrad, George Orwell, J. D. Salinger, John Steinbeck, George Orwell, and Elie Wiesel.

Typically, there are about 10 video clips for each title. For Ray Bradbury’s Farenheit 451, for example, titles are: Teaser Trailer; Overview; The Plot; Meet the Cast; Guy Montag; Themes; Motifs; Symbol 1; Symbol 2; In Conclusion. I’ve embedded ‘Overview’ and ‘Guy Montag’ below.

If you don’t mind ads, all the content is available free of charge at the 60 Second Recap site. The videos are also available at the 60 Second Recap Channel on Youtube. There’s also a 60 Second Recap Pick of the Week Channelwhere novels for teens are introduced and reviewed.

If you want to avoid the ads, or if you just want to access the content on an iPod Touch/iPhone/iPad, there is a free 60 Second Recap app. Videos for a few titles are free, but there is a charge of $0.99 for most. ‘Pick of the week’ videos are also free on the app. I leave you with the video of this week’s pick.

ThingLink – Versatile Option for Presenting and Sharing Online Information

I generally don’t recommend anything here until I’ve spent time doing hands-on exploration. Now that I’ve finally made time to play with ThingLink and ThingLink Education, I wish I’d done so sooner!

ThingLink is a simple but powerful tool for presenting collections of links to online material. You start by uploading or importing an image. You then create hotspots on the image that link to sites you wish to include. It couldn’t be much easier to create or share with ThingLink. I think the opportunity to embed is especially worthwhile. Here’s what I put together in just a few minutes. Hotspots become visible when you move your cursor over the image.

[It is noteworthy that embedded ThingLinks open on Apple's iDevices, and hotspots are made visible by touching the image.]

ThingLink offers both free and paid options. The free version allows up to 50 images. Teachers can get a 67% discount on the ‘Plus Plan’, with up to 500 images.

As I was writing this, Richard Byrne posted a great example that shows the creative potential of ThingLink. Richard also linked to an earlier post of his entitled 26+ Ways to Use ThingLink in the Classroom.

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Popplet — for Mind Mapping, Sharing and Presenting

Tools are only valuable to the extent that they facilitate tasks that need doing. That being said, here’s an tool that I believe can be valuable to learners and their teachers everywhere!

popplet is more than the online mind mapping application it seems at first glance. It also offers an effective way of sharing and presenting. An important added bonus is the iOS app that makes this tool available on all iDevices.

Take a look at what I just created. I’ve incorporated several images and a video. I could have drawn, or sketched, into any of the nodes if I’d wished to do that. It is worth noting that mind-maps created in Popplet’s browser version can be embedded anywhere with ease.

[I sure wish there wouldn't be a big blank space here if you are viewing on an iPad, but in its misguided wisdom Apple insists. Please scroll down for more about how you can use Popplet on an iDevice.]

Popplet’s presentation mode works well, and sets it apart from other mind mapping applications. It opens as shown below.

Once presentation mode is open, simply click on the ‘record’ button to number the nodes in the order in which you want to present them. Then click on the ‘present’ button, and each node will enlarge to fill the screen. The arrow buttons on the keyboard move forward or backward through the presentation.

There are two versions of the Popplet iOS app.  Popplet Lite allows the creation and storage of only one presentation on the iDevice at a time. The full Popplet app ($4.99) allows for storage of as many mind-maps as you wish.

This video from iPadagogy does a nice job of demonstrating how to use Popplet Lite on the iPad. The process for creating mind maps is almost the same in the browser version.

WordTalk – Free Text-to-Speech Plugin for MS Word – Extra Special Learning Resource

WordTalk is a powerful free tool that ought to be on every computer in every school where Microsoft Word is installed on a Windows computer! This is a tool that has the potential to benefit ALL learners, especially any who struggle with reading or writing. I’m adding WordTalk to my list of Extra Special Learning Resourses. 

WordTalk is a high quality free add-in that provides convenient, versatile and customizable text-to-speech for any document written or opened in Microsoft Word. It works in every version of MS Word, from Word 97 through Word 2010; and it’s available to run on every version of Windows from Windows 98 through Windows 7.

WordTalk has been around for a while. I first wrote about it more than 5 years ago, and I revisited it again in 2009. I am writing about WordTalk yet again for two reasons.

  1. Too many people remain unaware of WordTalk and of what it can do.
  2. WordTalk now installs and runs well on the latest versions of MS Word running on the latest versions of Windows. (There had been complications during recent transitions.)
Here’s a list of some of the things that WordTalk offers:
  • reads text aloud in any MS Word document
  • functions are accessed by buttons on a straightforward toolbar
  • alternatively, WordTalk functions can be accessed by customizable keyboard shortcuts–for individuals with vision challenges, or those who cannot use a mouse effectively, or to speed the work of anyone who relies extensively on WordTalk
  • text is highlighted as it is read, along with the selected reading unit–highlighting colors are customizable
  • creates audio files (wav or mp3) from text in an MS Word document
  • talking spell checker that speaks suggested spellings and definitions for those suggestions
Here’s a brief overview of WordTalk that I’ve put together in video format.

Show Me the Information – The Power of Video

Shortly before 6 this morning, my wife and I were awakened to the delightful aroma of baking focaccia bread. Our daughter Anjali (recently written up in our local paper) had dropped in to bake some bread because the oven isn’t working at her place. Before leaving for her 7 o’clock shift at the hospital, Anjali shared a piece of hot focaccia with her dad. It was wonderful!!!

When I asked Anjali what recipe she’d used, she replied that it had come from the Youtube channel Show Me The Curry. After tasting the focaccia, there was no doubt in my mind that a Youtube video had effectively given Anjali all the information she needed to create a mouth watering treat!

There are countless learners in classrooms everywhere who would struggle to be successful with a written recipe. Many of these learners would do just fine with a recipe presented in video format. This illustrates the imperative that learners be offered information in multiple formats.

Sadly, there are still classrooms where text is regarded as almost sacred, as somehow more valid than alternative ways of representing information. The alternatives are thought of as entertaining supplements to what really matters. This is an injustice that does incalculable harm to the significant number of learners who find it difficult to work with text.

In today’s world, there is no reasonable excuse for teachers not to offer learners a range of alternatives for accessing information. By the same token, teachers have no reason not to offer multiple options for learners to share what they know and to express their creativity! Text is only one way to share information. Numerous alternatives are equally effective, if not superior.

In case you need a good recipe for focaccia, I can vouch for this one…