Online Magazine Made Easy

We’ve all done it. We were all asked, at one point or another in our student lives, to create a magazine. Using Word to do so used to be the norm but the results were far from convincing and the effort would often be tremendous. There now is a better, funner, easier way to create any type of magazine; Joomag.

Joomag lets you instantly create a fully customizable magazine for fun or for corporative use. Getting set up is super simple; create an account for free in 2 seconds and get started; all you have to do is upload existing PDF if you have them or chose from one of the hundreds of templates offered on the website. Joomag makes it easy to create a sports magazine, indoor decoration magazine, technology magazine, whatever you want magazine. When you decide on a template, Joomag guides you step by step through the creation of the magazine using simple yet efficient guidelines and tutorials. The possibilities are endless and there is so much you can do while editing the magazine it’s surprizing that you can have access to so much for free.

On his blog, JunJazz reviewed Joomag and listed some of its upsides as well as some of its downsides. Starting with the upsides, Joomag is said to be very, very interactive. Since you can create an online magazine as well as a printed one nothing stops you from adding videos, sounds, music, powerpoints, in your magazine. These features are of course not too relevant if what you are looking for is a printed edition. Yet it is great to have the option of doing all that! The numbers of templates available was also identify as a big plus for the reviewer­. The fact that the free version allows you endless editions and that everything is easily sharable through facebook, twitter, email, and so on also makes Joomag a very good tool. Now for the downside. Maybe not to relevant for teaching purposes but if you wanted to make money out of your publications you’d have to get a gold or silver account which can be expensive. 

Killerstartups.com is also adamant about the quality of the tool. What really cuts it for them is how easy it is to create a very slick final product. Even though there are thousands of features available you only need a couple in order to get to a very satisfying result. Most of it is actually very user friendly. As it is mentionned in their review, everyone can use Joomag even whithout prior training in publication and editing.

Say goodbye to old, boring, magazines and brochures botched on Word, say hi to Joomag.   

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Comic Life: Bringing Life to your Stories

This is 2014 and there a no flying cars yet. Disappointment. Maybe you still can’t fly in the sky but that does not mean you have to use powerpoint anymore; Comic Life will bring life to your pictures.

 

We all know telling stories and using pictures are a big part of any ESL class. There exists many different programs that help you liven up your presentations, Comic Life is one of them. Comic Life is a downloadable software that allows you to upload pictures and create presentations under the form of a comic book. Unlike Pixton, no artistic skills are required to make a great presentation; just upload any picture you want and you are set. From then you can very easily insert captions, speech bubbles, and backgrounds. The possibilities are limitless; storyboards, comic books, picture stories are now easily accessible for everyone. 

In its review of the product, Toptenreviews.com awarded a score of 7.7 to Comic Life, praising its intuitive features and hundreds of different layouts. There are, however, some downsides. You cannot draw your own cartoons using the software, meaning you will have to draw your pictures, if you so wishes, using a different program and then upload the files on Comic Life. In that regard Comic Life should be seen more as a comic organizer than a comic generator. It is also mentioned that some features like the sound effects can prove to be annoying. 

Techradar.com also praises the app, especially the limitless possibilities for customization it offers. No comic presentation will look the same as you can choose from hundreds of layouts, backgrounds, fonts, and what not. Techradar also mentions the price of the app as being on the plus side. I do not agree; 40$ for a software that is basically a powerpoint on steroids might be a bit of a stretch. There are, however, discounts available for teachers and educators. 

Comic Life is a great tool for organizing presentations in a different ways. The fact that no artistic skills are required to enjoy the different features of the app can be a plus for some or a big inconvenience for the others. 

Christophe

 

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Online Diary: Penzu

ImageOne of the major goals, and struggles, of teaching English is the need to evaluate the students on an almost daily basis. This problem is even bigger when teaching in an intensive program, a situation I experienced last month during my third practicum. During my practicum I used a variety of strategies to evaluate my student daily, there is one, however, that I did not have time to try and it consists of having the students write a diary. Penzu would have been a perfect website to materialize my project. 

Penzu is an online private diary. It only takes a couple minutes to sign up to Penzu and it is absolutely free. The layout opf the website and of the actual journal is very attractive, the diary in itslef is fully customizable. Upon signing up, one can ask Penzu to send the user an electronic reminder to write down in the diary every day, week, month, whatever. You can link photos, pictures, leave comments, and many other features that cannot be done on a paper diary. Toptenreviews.com are full of praises towards Penzu, giving the website an almost perfect score on their review. The review websites mentions that it is virtually impossible to hack someone’s diary as they all are encrypted the same way goverment documents are. Moreoever, it can be hard to go back a find an old entry if you write daily in the diary; Penzu solved the problem by ading a tagging option to the entries. Just write down some keywords and you will always find your way through old posts. But where Penzu gets a lot of points is for customization. You can change the way your diary looks, the way the pages look, you can change the font. You can highlight stuff to make it stand out in your text. Bref, you do whatever you want with your diary. 

App Storm is also giving Penzu good reviews saying it is an easy to use, user-friendly website that makes it very easy to share entries on different social media. One of the downsides presnted in App Storm’s article deals with Penzu’s security. As mentionned earlier in the text, Penzu encrypts your diary in a manner that makes it almost impossible to breach. If however you lose you password it is impossible for you to change it or get another one. Forgetting your password means you lose your entire diary and all that is inside. Bummer.

Penzu would be great in a classroom if you want daily input on your students. Have them write an entry on whatever topic after each day of each period and there you go!

 

Chris

 

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Donor Choose

I am a part time tour guide for a company that specializes in educational tours. Every year I see hundreds of students and teacher coming to the province of Québec from the United States and English Canada; all these students are learning French as a second language! As an avid traveler myself, I understand how great it is to visit a country when you are learning a second, or a third, language. you are in their environment, you have to speak the language to be understood, you learn through interactions, it’s just plain great! I also know that educational trips are expensive and schoolboard are not always very enthusiastic about sending kids to foreign countries. There are ways to lower the financial burden put on parents through fundraising activities, there is also this neat little website called Donorchose.org. Now this website is only available for schools in the United States, the concept however is great and a Canadian equivalent should be developped, here’s why.

Say you are a teacher, you have a great idea for a project. However, you spent all your budget on photocopies and awesome posters for your classroom and can’t afford the project. Donorchoose.org gives you the chance to present your educational project online. Investors browsing the website can decide to financially support your project and act as a sponsor! You can propose all sorts of projects; buy new books, purchase school supplies, art material, field trips, renovations to the school, and what not. Charity Navigator, a website that ranks and evaluate charity programs gave an almost perfect score to Donor Chose, making it the single bestest educational charity program in the US in terms of transparency and actual efficiency. Since its creation in 2000, the website helped almost half of the United States’ public schools gather more than 52 million dollars for various projects (350 000 projects!). 

Java John also mentions how great a website Donor Chose is. Amongst the positive comments given in the article, the feedback you get from students and teachers is particularly heart-warming. You really get to help a class do something great or just meet basic needs and they thank you for that through pictures, letters, videos and so on. Java John also states that a lot of projects are backed by the website or other charities. Meaning that if you make a 25$ donation, they will double it giving the school a total of 50$

As a future teacher, I really want to bring my students on field trips. I don’t know where I will end up but I hope that when if I can’t afford something, there will be a site like Donor Chose around to help me out. Now, to keep working, Donour Chose has to take a cut on the donation which can be weird. Java John mentions that maybe schools should start looking towards Kickstarter for financing, a solution which is available in Canada. 

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Pixton: Comic Book 101

Everyone loves a good comic book, especially students. Using comic books in the classroom presents a lot of advantages, first of all they are fun. If the students are enjoying themselves in the classroom, they will learn more easily. Second of all, comic books allow you to present a huge varitety of material and grammar in an interactive and pleasant ways. In a comic book, you have characters, the students will need to describe these characters thus practicing basic descriptions and basic adjectives. Stuff happens in a comic book, therefore you can present basic sequence writing to your students with sentence connectors and everything. Moreoever, comic books allow you to reach students who draw doodles all the time in class which can be somewhat annoying.

Pixton.com is a great website where you and your students can build comic books from scratches. If you are a teacher, just submit a proof that you teach when signing up and you and your class will get to create comic books for free. If you just want to use it for yourself you can log in in the “fun” section. Creating your comic book is very easy with Pixton; step by step, the website takes you from the creation of your characters (fully customizable), to the publishing of the comic book. In less than 15 minutes you can put your hands on some very decent, home-made, comics. You can also browse through comics submitted by others for, say, a reading activity in class.

Comic Book Software Review praises the easiness with which one can get accustomed to Pixton. As mentionned, Pixton offers a vast array of customizable characters and backgrounds. Backgrounds however are not customizable. You click on the features you want, you move your elements around as you please and voilà! A comic book.

Common Sense Media also find PIxton very useful with kids as the website provides an easy to follow How-to set of videos to help you create simple to elaborate comics. Very concerned about what can be seen or heard on the internet, CSM also mentions that comics judged inappropriate can be reported and the users could be banned after a number of offences, which makes Pixton very safe for work.

 

Chris 

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Creaza, the Online Toolbox

There exists hundreds on websites out there to help teachers and students create material, flashcards, mind maps, videos, comics, etc. Finding your way through all the possible websites and remembering which one does what can prove to be a challenge. This is where Creaza comes in handy. Creaza is an online toolbox which allows students and teachers alike to create virtually everything, from mind maps to videos. The website is available in no less then 9 languages, is free, and requires no installation. Once you are registered and logged in, you have access to 4 very useful tools; a video editor, a sound editor, a cartoon editor, and a mind map generator.

As it is mentionned on Free Technology for Teachers, Creaza is super user-friendly so everyone can use it regardless of your level of ease with computers, sound/video editing and so on. It has a whole click-and-drag approach to things that makes Creaza very intuitive. The video editing tool comes in with basic transitions, clips, and pictures. Same goes for the sound editing tool. Creaza allows you to record directly on the website or select a pre-recorded track on your computer or in Creaza’s library. The cartoon creator comes with a bunch of pre-established backgrounds and characters. Once again, it is very easy to go on the internet and insert your own elements. Educators technology mentions that Creaza is great in the classroom as it is easy to create any kind of material to improve your teaching! In a few clicks you have a video or a comic book ready to go. Another click and your students can create a great mind map; it is that easy.

Give it a try, you will soon adopt it for its simplicity and its four-in-one applications.

 

Chris 

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Wordle – The Only Cloud You’ll be Happy to See

Words are the most important feature of an ESL classroom! You want your students to learn as many as possible, to be able to find the most important in a text, to be able to play with them. Wordle offers a wonderful and super easy way of presenting words yo your classroom.

Wordle is a free website that transforms any pîece of text into a word cloud. What is a word cloud? It is a graphic representation of the words in a text. The more important words, the one that are repeated the most, appear bigger than the less important ones. This provides a visual clue to your students as to what words they have to look for in a text, what words hold the most meaning, and so on. Such a thing is great to teach new vocabulary but it becomes great especially when teaching learning strategies. The words highlighted by Wordle are the ones that will help your students make sense of the text. By knowing in advance what the important words will be your students will be aware of their presence in the text and they are most likely to go and look them up in the dictionary.

languagesresources.wordpress lists a bunch of ideas to use Wordle in the classroom which are all very interesting.

  • Creative writing: use any piece of text available, run it through Wordle and ask you students to come up with a story using the words from the cloud
  • Story building: the students have to guess the scenario of the text based on the words from the clouds. It chould fun to see how far or close they get from the actual story!
  • Oral presentations: instead of little cards with point not to forget have your students come up with a cloud that they can look at. It will also help them organise their ideas by importance.
  • Poll: you ask a question or many to your students, they type their answers in a word document which you run through Wordle. Wordle will enlarge the most common answers and there you have it; an easy poll with easy to read results.

Edjudo’s review of the product is very positive, the author even says that Wordle’s best feature is its simplicity. The author, however, mentions that there are also a few bad tweeks with the program.  

  • Wordle makes it very hard, if not impossible, to modify a cloud once it is created. You must be very carefula bout what material you run through it as you may not be able to change the content that will appear on screen.
  • The resolution/format is also very strict; 768pixels x 556 pixels or a ratio of 4:3. Now it might not be a problem for users that are not too techno savvy but for the cracks out there it can prove to be a bugging element.

This being said, Wordle is full customizable; your clouds can take almost any form, colors, as you like.

Christophe 

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