At the recent IT links meeting, the question arose of useful tools for classroom use, given our forthcoming move to desktops for IWB use in all classrooms. The idea being that we might look at their inclusion on a networked basis. I have forwarded a list of those I currently use to Joe Allen, who requested ideas from English teachers. I thought I’d share them here, too, as they may be of interest. Some you’ll know already, some you may not. I have installation files for most of them, if you’re interested. They are, in no particular order …..
There are lots of these available, but this looks nice & can be sized to fit the whole or part of the screen. It functions as a stopwatch or countdown timer – good for doing things against the clock, to see who’s fastest at a given task, or just to allocate time to a task. Online-stopwatch.com.
A full-screen clock that will show real time or – most usefully – allow you to show any time you want, 12 or 24 hour clock, for teaching purposes. You can turn text on or off, and ditto for the digital display. There’s nothing better for teaching or revising time. Flash movie – source now forgotten.
Virtual Magnifying Glass
Yes, there is one of these already available within the Smartboard tools, but the difference is that this one functions more like the real thing, ie there’s just one glass, not two as in Smart. Best to install the shortcut in the toolbar at the bottom of your screen, as it activates and de-activates on a single click. Good for websites with text that’s not easily legible from the back of the classroom. From Sourceforge.
1 Click Answers
This is a great free tool from Answers.com – not especially languages-related – that allows you to call up dictionary & encyclopedia references to any word that you place the cursor over & then perform Ctrl+left click or any other combination you set up. It works on any text you have on screen from any application. Or none – try it on your desktop. Everyone should have it!
Just a tool for overwriting other screen images – you can do this with the Smart pens, but this is a nice easy-to-use alternative, with the ability to record & save what you write or draw and then play it back in animated form. Can be downloaded here.
Now this really is a class act – a virtually instant multi-lingual dictionary that activates like 1-click Answers, ie by clicking on a word on-screen. No typing words into boxes or anything like that – it really is so quick and pretty impressive in its range. It’s quite hard to find a word that will stump it. It can recognise what language the word you want to translate is from, presumably by context, which is very clever. It’s amazing, very desirable, but it does cost. I’ve shown it to Steve Hall, who is going to talk to Bob Allen about researching multi-user licensing costs.There is another similar thing called Clicktionary, which is free in its basic form, but doesn’t actually do the business very well. Babylon do various other language tools, too, such as multi-lingual virtual keyboards, but this translation device is something else. Surely a must-have for teachers at least!
Other useful tools
Other things that are handy to have are Gadwin Print Screen, which makes the process of creating images of what is on your computer screen really easy. A couple of clicks creates the screen capture and you can edit the image in Picture Editor. So simple. Crawler Notes is a bit of fun, really, allowing you to create on-screen post-it notes that can float on top of other applications. Post reminders for you or the class or keep scores in team contests. Can be downloaded here. AT Notes is a way of creating little onscreen text boxes that you can then drag around the screen. Smart does this, of course, but in a rather untidy way, so this has its uses, especially for teaching German word order! Can be downloaded here.