11.29.2009

Lingoes: Portable Dictionary & Translation

Lingoes
Lingoes is a free dictionary, text-to-speech, and translation tool that works with any selectable text found in any program, including web browsers and word-processing applications. While Lingoes is enabled, highlighting and/or double-clicking on text returns a pop-up with the definition (if a single word) or translation (if multiple words) of the text. Translation is provided in the default language that you select, but any of the other 80 available languages are accessible by clicking the book icon, located on the pop-up.

Pronunciation of selected text is also available by clicking on the speaker icon on the pop-up, or you can have Lingoes set to always pronounce selected text. Although the computer voice is not the greatest, the pitch and speed can be adjusted to one's liking. A better option is to install language packs, which are actual recordings of words; however, the language packs only apply to a limited range of single words. Lingoes can be disabled via the taskbar, so that is always available, but not always translating. You can also configure Lingoes features to be triggered by a hotkey. Watch the screencast for a demo.

[Post continues below screencast]



There is a portable version of Lingoes, which means students could use the program on any computer with a USB drive, making this tool available to them whether they are in a lab, at the library, or at home. Having his own copy of the program, also means that a student would not have mess with configuration settings,e.g. whereas a special education student may just need the english definition & pronunciation of words, a Russian-speaking ELL student could have her Lingoes set to translate into Russian.

While the customizability of Lingoes makes it a powerful tool, make sure you spend some time configuring it before letting student loose with it. It is only as useful, as it is usable. And, if you find Lingoes to be helpful, consider donating to the cause.

11.15.2009

5 Ways to Use Drop.io in the Classroom

Drop.io is a quick and easy way to share files, including pictures, video, audio, and documents, in real time. The ability to the restrict viewing of a drop, the uploading and/or deleting of files, combined with features like chat, make it a great classroom tool. The price is certainly right for education too: free up to 100 MB per drop, with no limit to the number of drops one can make. There is also no registration required, not for admins or users - just don't forget the name and/or password of your site(s)!

Here are some ideas for using drop.io in the classroom:
  1. Presentations

    Combined with a projector - or better yet, and interactive whiteboard - drop.io is a quick way to present student work when students are using computers. Students can upload their file to a drop created by the teacher either via the web, email, or by using the Drag & Dropio Firefox extension. All files uploaded to a drop can be viewed as soon as they are finished uploading.

    When I teach photography, I have students upload their favorite images to my drop, as they are working. Then when everyone has added at least one picture, I project the drop and have the students talk about their selected image. Students can give feedback during class or can leave a written comment on the drop.io site. An added benefit is that I then have a copy of the students' work. I've had students as young as 4th grade upload to drop.io with no problem.

  2. Homework Collection & Digital Portfolios

    Drops can be password protected so that only an admin can view files. The hidden access feature on drop.io can even enable students to upload to a drop, without knowing the name of the site.  Teachers can then view student work within the drop or download it to their computer.

    Since drops can be password protected on both the admin and guest level (e.g. allowing guests to upload and view, but not change settings), a teacher could create a private drop for each student and comment on student work within the drop. A great way to create a digital portfolio!

  3. Collaboration

    Drop.io allows multiple users to upload files simultaneous and shows changes in real time. Along with the chat and comment features (which can be disabled by an admin, if necessary), drop.io can be used as a collaboration tool for group projects. Watch this video for a demonstration:


  4. Digital Scavenger Hunt/Resource Sharing

    Given the real-time sharing capabilities and the ability to view contents and comments as a stream, drop.io can be used to collect responses to an online scavenger hunt. Students can watch to see what has been found already, in order to avoid duplicates. Students then have access to all the found resources.

  5. Dropbox for Students

    In the least, drop.io can be used by students to transfer/store files. Flash drives are easily lost or corrupted (and can be a haven for viruses, as our high school learned last year), but drop.io can never be forgotten at home.

Other cool drop.io features useful in education: dropcasting (podcasting the contents of your drop), voicemail (leave audio messages on your drop), and Facebook connect (share to a Facebook feed)

11.02.2009

Expiration Dates are Just Guidelines (Firefox Tip)

Mozilla is great about updating Firefox to integrate new features or to fix bugs, but with every new version, "incompatible" add-ons are disabled. Incompatibility, however, is based solely on whether the developer designated their add-on as compatible with the new version, relegating many unupdated, but completely functional add-ons to a greyed-out existence.

There is an easy fix though. If you find yourself with a new version of Firefox, but without some of your favorite add-ons, follow the steps below to stop Firefox from automatically disabling add-ons. (Note, this does not make the add-ons work with new versions, and some add-ons may turn out to be truly incompatible.)
  1. In the Awesome Bar (the address bar for the unindoctrinated), type about:config and press enter.
  2. If you've never wandered into this territory before, Firefox will warn you about the page; click'I’ll be careful, I promise' to continue.
  3. Right-click anywhere inside the window and select New > Boolean.
  4. For the preference name, enter extensions.checkCompatibility then click 'OK'.
  5. For the preference value, select False and then click 'OK'.

Voila! You can now use outdated add-ons in Firefox...whether or not they actually work.