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Tuesday, 9 March 2010

A Wandering of Websites 2: Useful On-line Resources for English Teachers

It's polling time! With elections coming up (aren't there always elections 'coming up') in many countries, we thought we'd do a little polling of our own.

As we discovered one of our great teaching resources below we thought it would be fun to show you some of the functionality, sorry, I mean what you can do with it, ourselves. We'll publish the results in another posting on this blog once a few of you have had a go at filling it in. So go and have a look now - it's fun, interesting, and should give you some great ideas on how to use this cool tool with your students.

Of course, the Survey Monkey is just one of the five great new teaching resources we have found for you this time. Check out the rest below and be sure to let us know what you think... and to recommend your own favourites!

NEW This offers a series of short This is one of those sites where you can type in some text and get the computer to say it. I must admit I'm wondering exactly how useful this could be for language learners, but there's a definite schoolboy thrill, along the lines of looking up naughty words in the dictionary when you were a kid, in getting Heather from the US, or indeed Rachel from the UK in her lovely 'proper' English accent to tell you to... oh well, let's not go into details, I'm sure you can amuse yourself no end with your inventive phrases and I defy you to keep a smile off your face as you listen to the results. I just hope they don't display a link of past requests anywhere...

'The world's most popular web-based survey tool', they claim, and it's true that this is a great site to incite interaction with your users. It's free, and allows you to easily bang up questionnaires in a jiffy. Fast, that is. Look, I've created one just for you, to show you some of the question types available...!

The image here shows an attempt I had at 'branding' the survey with the Hotch Potch English colours, but it was just at the end of the process that I realised this was part of the 'pro' option. Shucks, but you are probably thinking 'Thank god for the Pro Option, judging by those colours'... I chose their 'Purple Passion' standard option in the end. It ain't Hotch Potch English, but it's better than nothing.

I wanted to give you access to the results of the survey without giving you my account login but... it's a Pro Option! So I'll content myself (and you?) by posting a brief summary of the results here once a few of you have done the survey - watch this space... and let us know if you have had fun using the site - why not create a survey and send us the link in the comments section below?

And as it says on the box... (or the home page, at least) this site is all about 'funny and weird news about stupid crimes, ignorant politicians, heroic toddlers and much, much more' and it certainly delivers.

Current headlines include: Will love songs put sharks in the mood to shag? / Prison van carrying convicted bank robbers crashes into security van, thousands missing / Man auctions permanent advertising tattoo on back of neck...

Current fun facts include: Barbie's full name is Barbara Millicent Roberts / American Airlines saved $40,000 in 1987 by eliminating one olive from each salad in first class / 200 million people in China live on less than $1 a day...

Fascinating stuff, and clearly exploitable in class by the innovative English teacher, n'est-ce pas?!

I was just about to recommend the authoritative yet amusing daily word e-mail posting from Your Dictionary, one of the best of these things out there in my opinion, when I realise I haven't been getting them for the last few days. Searching frantically through my inbox finally turns up a message soberly announcing the last word of the day e-mail from Your Dictionary! This is a shame, as it was one of the few which managed to inject a bit of humour into these po-faced thing, but never mind. Apparently this is so they can concentrate on making Your Dictionary even better blah blah blah, but anyway, do have a look at the site as it does, in fact, provide a LOT of interesting language content, including a large resource section for teachers which is worth browsing.

OK, I'd better get this one out of the way! If you type '' into your browser you immediately get a rather nasty page from a weary-sounding company called 'Audacity, Inc' and a curt black message telling us in no uncertain terms: 'We DO NOT make audio software'. It is some indication of the success of the company which does make the excellent free audio software known as Audacity that the company which owns '' have to devote their prestigious home page to telling people who they are not!

Well, whatever the story, if you follow the link above you'll get to the Audacity which does make audio software, and a fine product it is too, especially regarding it's free. It does take a while to get to know, and I would certainly recommend getting a knowledgeable colleague (look for someone with thick glasses and spots and sticking out teeth wearing a 'Kiss a Geek Today' T-shirt...) to get you started. Oh, sorry, Audacity allows you to record stuff in lots of formats and do some fancy stuff too. I use it to take the hiss out of my dodgy podcasts and free weekly English lesson recordings.

I must admit, I've seen worthy educators giving valiant presentations to enthusiastic souls on how to use Audacity to make their lessons the next best thing to being there, but I can never convince myself that your average teacher actually goes straight home and starts using the thing. Like a lot of the amazing technology out there, I have a feeling that many teachers, even if IT-ready, still prefer reading about it than actually using it just yet, or - same old story - simply don't have the time. Tell me if I'm right. OK, or wrong...!


© 2010 Sab Will / Hotch Potch EnglishWill Power English : A Wandering of Websites 2: Useful On-line Resources for English Teachers
Sab Will is Course Director at TEFL Paris, a TEFL Certificate Teacher Training Centre validated by IATQUO

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