Monthly Archives: September 2012

Five Reasons to Use Interactive Whiteboards

I know, many complain that interactive whiteboards are difficult to use, and they don’t see the added value. Sure, some activities on the boards don’t improve on a basic chalkboard. But, here are five things I like about interactive whiteboards:

  • Dragging and dropping so you can:
    • Do attendance – students drag their name to the “here” space when they arrive
    • Match vocabulary words to pictures or definitions
    • Practice correct word order – similar to refrigerator poetry
    • Complete cloze activities
    • Reorder stories or paragraphs
  • Saving so you can:
    • Finish activities at a later date
    • Reference materials created in a previous class
    • Work on a grammar chart or vocabulary wall over numerous meetings
    • Use in future terms
  • Clear visuals so you can:
    • Appeal to visual learners
    • Use a wide variety of colors (not just blue, green, red and black whiteboard pens)
    • Incorporate more pictures
    • Have clear handwriting (with writing to type features)
  • Going online so you can:
    • Seamlessly bring in images from Google Images
    • Quickly look up words in a dictionary
  • Importing other PowerPoints and PDFs so you can:
    • Improve materials
    • Incorporate student ideas
    • Annotate documents
    • Use graphic organizers
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Plagiarism and Technology

Are you good at spotting plagiarism? I think, I’m pretty good. I can identify material that doesn’t have a student’s typical style or skill level, although I often rely on technology to find plagiarism. Our university doesn’t offer plagiarism software, so I used to google phrases to find their original source. Recently, I started using Plag Tracker, a free site.  You can copy and paste a paper into Plag Tracker, and it highlights parts that may have been plagiarized and links them to the original source.

When I first tried the site, I ran a student’s paper through that I thought was not plagiarized. Well, I was surprised to find that the student had in fact plagiarized a small part of his essay. He had taken a quote, the sentence introducing the quote and a nice summary of the quotes main points. He had cited the source of the quote, but not the other material. It was a relatively small mistake, and he might not have even known that what he did was plagiarism. I started to think that the site might help him reflect on his own writing and to identify and rework any instances of plagiarism.

On the other hand, it might help him learn to beat sites that identify plagiarism, like Plag Tracker. In fact, Quick Student has learned to beat these plagiarism trackers and let’s other students do the same for free. According to the Quick Student, here is how it works:

  • Smart Thesaurus Replacer – Replaces commonly used words with other common words. It uses a large database that is constantly growing and all words have been handpicked and checked for authenticity.
  • Adjective Adder- Adds common and vague adjectives onto specific words; for example “truck” might become “crimson truck” or “shiny truck”.
  • Big Word Replacer – Most students don’t use complex words like “Bombastic” or “Erudition”, this function replaces big words with simpler ones.
  • Common Word Replacer – Switches out common words to more specific ones; for example “orange” might become “clementine”.

I have to admit that sites, like Quick Student, worry me. They introduce little mistakes and throw off the plagiarism trackers. So, here is the question: Do you tell students what/if you use a plagiarism tracker? How do you educate students about plagiarism?

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Hyperlinked Feedback on Writing

I used to feel overwhelmed by writing classes. So when I was at conferences or perusing journals, I would focus on anything about writing instruction. Now, I love teaching writing, but still haven’t stopped searching out information about the latest trends in writing instruction. I posted in July about using track changes in Word and screencast feedback using Jing. Well, my latest pet project also deals with computer mediated writing feedback. I was reading “Technology and Corrective Feedback for L2 Writers: Principles, Practices, and Problems” by Ferris (2012, p. 15) which had an aside about using “macros to provide brief, generic explanations to common errors”. I honestly knew very little about macros and nothing about setting them up, but I was curious. After a little googling, I found out that with Macros you can create shortcuts for tasks you repeat often. They are actually pretty easy to record too (and if you are here at INTO OSU, I can help you make them or give you mine). They were exactly the tool I was looking for to create hyperlinked feedback.

Here are the macros I set:

Mistake Short-cut/Macro Symbol with link
Article CONTROL + A,R art
Capitalize CONTROL + C,A cap
Fragment CONTROL + F,R frag
Number CONTROL + N,U #
Possessive CONTROL + P,O poss
Punctuation CONTROL + P,U punc
Run-on CONTROL + R run-on
Spelling CONTROL + S,P sp
Subject/verb CONTROL + S,V s/v
Verb Tense CONTROL + VT vt
Word Form CONTROL + W,F wf
Word Order CONTROL + W,O wo

Now, I am using macros to link my coded errors corrections, like CAP, S/V, VT, to websites with explanations of the rule(s) and practice. It took some time to set-up, but I graded my first set of student papers today using the Macros and was so excited about it. They were easy to use and students get just-in-time help and practice. I don’t have any student feedback on them yet, but I hope they are as over the moon about it as I am.

Do you have any websites that you like for grammar explanations? What would you link your codes to?

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