Improve Learning with Flashcards

We all remember those lovely math flashcards our teachers used when we were kids. Maybe they still use them! However, my kids think about something completely different when I mention flashcards. Their experience at school and at home has been with online flashcards. And I have to agree, they are superior. You can create and modify a set of flashcards quickly and easily. You can share your deck of cards with others….and use their decks so you don’t even have to make your own. And often the software has other tools to help you learn what you need to know.

I’ve taken a look at some of the flashcard sites out there…and here are my five favorites….

Study Stack has a library of almost a million flashcards on hundreds of topics. You can find a stack and start studying. Or, you can find a stack and change it for your own needs…or create your own from scratch. And you have more than just flashcards. Study Stack will use each deck and allow you to review them as flash cards, play Hangman with them, do a crossword, an unscramble, and more.

Next up is cramberry. Again, you’ll find thousands of sets already made or you can create your own. And cramberry will create a study schedule for you by tracking your correct answers and guiding you toward the things you need to study more. You can also take the cards with you – either by printing and cutting them out, or by using the new iPhone app to work with your cards on your iPhone or your iPod Touch.

Third on the list is Flashcard Machine. With over 18 million cards on their site, you’ve got plenty to work with. Of course, you can always create your own. And Flashcard Machine has the option to use your cards in your iPod. But this site has a special enhancement for teachers. You can create pages for each of your classes so you can easily sort and manage cards appropriate for each of your classes.

Memorize is a somewhat unique site. It offers flashcards in their custom memorize format. You can choose between flashcard mode, matching mode, or multiple choice mode. You guess the answer in your head and then tell the site if you were right or wrong when given the correct answer. You also have options to memorize graphics such as maps and to memorize in paragraph format. When you finish, the site will send you an e-mail when you specify to prompt you to return and practice again.

Last up is CoboCards. This site allows you to create flashcards, just like the others. But it gives you more flexibility to upload graphics to your cards, use a formula writer, and to compare your current cards with previous versions of the same card. CoboCards is also unique in that you can create a deck of cards with a friend…you working from your computer and your friend working from theirs. This shared deck is created by both and studied by both. And CoboCards tracks your progress and your friend’s progress.

So whether you are a teacher making cards for your students, a student studying for a test, a professional preparing for an exam or licensing test, or just someone who really wants to learn more….these flashcard sites offer plenty of options for you!

Resources for Books and Stories Online

Books and audiobooks can get expensive. Fortunately, there are numerous web sites compiling hundreds of books that can be read and/or downloaded and listened to for free! These are mostly older books in the public domain, but that doesn’t stop them from being valuable resources for the classroom.

Here are a few to check out…

Free Classic Audio Books offers more than 50 audio books that are free to download. Most of the books have human narration, but some are high quality text-to-speech narration. Titles include Swiss Family Robinson, Legend of Sleep Hollow, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and A Christmas Carol. The site also has a great offer of 200 classic books on one DVD for just $9.95. All 200 are human narration. And all are mp3 format that can be listened to on the DVD, copied to your computer for listening, or moved to an iPod.

Children’s Storybooks Online currently has 35 illustrated storybooks that can be read online. The books are divided into Books for Young Children, Books for Older Children, and Books for Young adults.

Biblomania offers more than 2000 classic texts including books, poems, short stories and plays. All of these are available for reading online along with support options for research and discussion.

Our final resource today is LibriVox. The goal of LibriVox is to make all public domain books available as free audiobooks. At this point, their catalog has more than 2300 audio books available. You can listen online or download the mp3 to your computer for listening, burning to CD, or moving to your iPod.

Podcasting with Video

This won’t relate much to what we do in our school, but the concept is just too awesome not to talk about! Two teachers at Woodland Park High School in Colorado have developed a teaching strategy using video podcasting that has completely changed how they educate their students.

Essentially, they’ve reversed the process. No more lectures in the classroom. And no written assignments at home. Now the teachers record their lectures in advance – both audio and any relevant video of the board, overheads, etc – and post those to the web. Students are given the assignment to watch the lecture as homework. Lectures can be viewed online, on their iPods, or on their cell phones. For any student who does not have easy access to those technologies, all lectures are also burned to DVD’s. That has met the needs of all students in the classes. And now all the kids come to class with a good overview of the subject and class time is spent in discussion, projects, group work, and all the other active learning. But now, with all that being done in class rather than at home, every student has the benefit of working with the other students and the teacher.

Results? Student scores have skyrocketed in those classes. The teachers enjoy having more time to actually work with the students. The students benefit from having the attention of the teacher while they work. And the students enjoy this creative use of technology.

This is a really creative way to utilize technology in education.

iPhone and iPod Touch Updates

We don’t use either of these in our school so I don’t do a lot of posts about them. But I know some of you are lucky enough to have one of your own, so I don’t want to ignore them completely. And this is one time it might be good to prompt you on something.

Apple just released an Update for the iPhone that includes at least eight security fixes. This update will not show up in your computer’s Software Updates nor on Apple’s Downloads site. It is only available through iTunes.

Also, iTunes is currently hosting the 2.1 Software Update for the iPod Touch.

So make a visit to iTunes and download the needed software if you have an iPhone or iPod Touch.

UPDATE: Apple has added the iPhone software update to their website.

Put your old cell phone to good use

It is estimated that the average American buys a new cell phone every 12 months. They obviously didn’t include me in their research! As much as I love computers, I’m not much of a cell phone guy. I still use the very first cell phone I ever bought. It doesn’t take photos. It doesn’t calculate my taxes. It just makes phone calls.

But in this case, I’m way below average. Most people trade up for better phones and more features. And this results in more than 100 million working cell phones becoming unused each year. So if your phone is one of those, what can you do with the old phone?

Try Flipswap. Flipswap is an online company that takes usable cell phones and iPods and returns them to service through a variety of other avenues. And if your cell is not usable, it is recycled in the most environmentally friendly manner through a company that specializes in recycling technology components. Sounds good so far? Oh, but we are just getting started!

What will Flipswap do for you besides just taking your old phone or iPod off your hands? Well, you have options!

fs logo

Option #1 – Use their website to locate a participating store. I checked. There were two within two miles of my house. And several in the Hartford area. Using the Flipswap website, you can obtain the value of your old phone. Then, disable the phone by pulling the SIMM card or whatever method your provider requires, and then take it to the store. You can trade it in for store credit equal to the value of your old phone!

Option #2 – Find those same participating dealers online. Disable your phone and take it in. But instead of taking store credit, just tell them you want to have Flipswap plant a tree. For every phone turned in like this, Flipswap plants a tree! They are expecting to plant 25,000 trees through their reLeaf initiative during 2008.

Option #3 – Get the value of your phone and disable it just like in the other options. Print out the value receipt you’ll see online. Stick your phone and the receipt in a small box or padded envelope and mail it to Flipswap. Flipswap pays the postage! And in a few weeks, you’ll get a check for the value of your phone.

Option #4 – Do exactly what you did for Option #3, except when you send it all in to Flipswap, include a note that you would like the check to be mailed to your favorite charity rather than to you.

The options are all good. This is a very green and very socially responsible way to deal with the millions of old phones being taking out of use every year. So if you have a phone that you are thinking about upgrading, check out Flipswap as a way of passing on the older phone.

Learning iTunes

A lot of folks found a shiny new iPod under the tree this past Christmas. Congratulations! It is hard to find a better toy than that under the tree.

But now, in order to use your iPod successfully, you need to master iTunes. iTunes is a free download for both Mac and PC, and it is the software you’ll use on your computer to load songs, videos, audiobooks, etc. onto your new iPod.

Learning iTunes is easy. For the most part, you can just explore the software and figure out most things. But to get you started, Apple offers four video tutorials on their web site to get you started. The four tutorials – Download iTunes, Explore the Jukebox, Import Music from CDs, and Create Playlists – can all be found at http://www.apple.com/itunes/tutorials/?sr=hotnews?sr=hotnews.rss.

Just a little lower down on that same page, you’ll see a link for iTunes Tips. Follow that link and you’ll find another twenty-six tips for using iTunes – items ranging from Using iTunes Gift Cards to Sharing Your Playlists to Right-Click Shortcuts.

These tutorials and tips will get you on your way to enjoying iTunes and your brand new iPod.

Charging Your iPod

I recently posted about maximizing the performance of your laptop batteries (here). Now let’s turn our attention to the battery in your iPod.

There have been mixed reviews and opinions about these little batteries. Most everyone wants them to last longer after each charge. And no one likes having to replace them when the no longer work. So are there some tips to help maximize this battery?

Not so much.

Some folks (not Apple) say it is a good idea to make sure your iPod is undocked and that you work off the battery for a while. This will “exercise” the battery and  provide it with a longer lifespan. There are also folks (again, not Apple) who say you should run it all the way down periodically.

But most experts feel these are not worthwhile things to worry about. The batteries in iPods don’t have a “memory” that needs to be reset by running them down like some of the older battery-powered items. And it doesn’t get stressed by remaining at virtually a full charge.

The easiest thing to do with your iPod is charge it when it is convenient and enjoy it as much as you can!