Write Better-er With Grammar-ly

(#Bloggermore2015 3/26)

This is my 34th year as a classroom teacher of History and English. I shudder to think how many student drafts and completed essays I must have read. But, I’d hazard a guess that it would be closing in on 100,000 pages. And don’t even get me started on the number of spelling and grammatical errors I’ve struck through with a flourish of red pen. Would it be a million? Or more? I know that it was common these past few years for me to be grammatically outraged.

... and this is just one week's worth! Image: Copyright Chris Morgan at www.cxmedia.com

… and this is just one week’s worth!
Image: Copyright Chris Morgan at www.cxmedia.com

So, with that particular rant done, let me turn to the actual subject of this post. Grammar-ly is a comparatively new arrival into the realm of web applications which we call “grammar checkers.” The developers proudly boast that Grammarly will locate ten times the number of errors, in spelling, punctuation and grammar, than a word processing program … and you know what; they’re right. Having experimented with a test document, I decided it was worthwhile to include some screen shots. As you’ll see in the first, Grammarly did locate a large number of errors.

Just look at the errors ... fortunately it wasn't me that made them!

Just look at the errors … fortunately it wasn’t me that made them!


The feature that I most applaud is the explanation given as to the nature of the error. Take a look …

The error explained.

The error explained.

I can certainly see a whole range of benefits for authors, students (especially at senior secondary and tertiary levels) and education professionals. Grammarly conducted a study amongst freelance writers which concluded that writing ability (and accuracy) can have a considerable effect upon career opportunities. The results of the study were presented in infographic form in The Huffington Post. Pleasingly, Grammarly have given me permission to include that infographic here.

Proof that writing skills certainly do matter.

Proof that writing skills certainly do matter.


Grammarly has already attracted more than four million users around the world. There is a great Chrome extension and further versions and updates are on the way. If you want to know more than my bare bones review then please use this link grammarly.com/grammar-check

PS: I do wish auto correct wouldn’t keep changing Grammarly to Gram Marly … sounds like a Jamaican reggae star!

PPS: Yes, I did run this blog post through Grammarly … no further comment will be made on the errors!

Student Directed Innovation and Cool Creation Tools

This year, at my own request (!), I am teaching Year 8 for the first time in perhaps two decades. I have the same group of 29 students for both English and History. This gives me seven lessons per week, ranging in length from 45 to 65 minutes. Of course, I realised early on that having the same group allowed for all sorts of possibilities; not least of all the opportunity to operate a “timetable within a timetable.”

My first decision was to give the students themselves some measure of control over what and how they learn. Of course, I remain a slave to the curriculum and the need to compile (largely useless?) reports. Still, I realised I could easily cede one lesson per week to the students in order that they might pursue their “passion.” I have read a great deal recently about how the Internet is now passion-based rather than content focused. Given that I am working with class group 8.1, I decided to call the project Innova8.1 (I know it’s hardly original!) The idea was first introduced to the students via my favourite iPad app, Haiku Deck. I’ve embedded the presentation below … please feel free to adapt and use it for your own purposes.

Created with Haiku Deck, the free presentation app for iPad

The early signs are great … not surprisingly the students look forward to this weekly “release” from the usual constraints of the classroom. Their interests are as varied as you might expect; animation, digital music, photography, anime, mash-ups just to name a few. My only expectations are that the students must both create and share content.

In reality, I have had to make the greatest adjustments; to allow students  to move freely around the room, to sit on the floor, to listen to music, to seek the advice of their peers … to engage in noisy, laugh-filled student directed learning. Once or twice I’ve come close to snapping and demanding silence until I remember I’ve given them permission! Each Innova8.1 lesson begins with some sharing of either student created content or with me introducing a new Web 2.0 tool or an iPad app. (Oops; probably should have mentioned that we are 1:1 Apple Macbook whilst I make regular use of my iPad. Hell, I even started lending it to students despite the separation anxiety.) Now, finally I have also included here via Scribd a list that I’ve called “15 Cool Tools and Apps for Student Creation.” I have begun to introduce and demonstrate these to my class. They, much like me, seem to like nothing better than trying and mastering a new tool.

As always, I would welcome your comments, suggestions or questions; I’m already convinced that “Student Directed Learning” must become a part of what we ALL do.

15 Cool Creation Tools by Simon McKenzie

Using ThingLink and Hello Slide

One significant part of my role as the Learning Technologies Coordinator at my school is in providing teachers with instruction in the use of effective Web 2.0 tools. Across 2012 I have presented a number of voluntary out-of-hours PD sessions for those interested in building their skill set. One of the best attended sessions focused upon the use of QR Codes, ThingLink and SoundGecko, all of which I have used in my own History and English classrooms.

ThingLink certainly became an instant hit as it allows the user to embed images, videos, links and sounds into an image. The resulting interactive image can be easily shared and, as many of you would already know, it now can be used with both Twitter and Facebook. In my Senior Ancient History class I found ThingLink to be particulary effective in assisting students to “unpack” an artifact. One of the first ThingLinks that I created was of a well known statue from Aphrodisias in Turkey which portrays the emperor Nero and his infamous mother, Agrippina the Younger. This image is embedded below as an example for you to explore. Simply “hover” your mouse over the image and the links will become visible.

Although there are subscription packages available, ThingLink Education offers teachers free accounts with the ability to create up to 100 images. To become a member, simply go to www.thinglink.com

SoundGecko and QR Codes also have myriad uses. To learn a little about these you might wish to view the presentation which follows. It was created with one of my new favourites, Hello Slide, an easy way to turn a PowerPoint presentation into a narrated short video. It’s another great Web 2.0 tool for you to check out, either for your own use or for when the introverts you teach struggle with speaking in front of the class. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to post them here or email me.

A Crowdsourced List: Web Tools, Websites and Apps

When I first joined the Twitter-verse earlier this year I had no idea of the benefits that doing so would bring. I learned early on that it is not a matter of numbers; Justin Bieber can have his 30,428,926 followers (as of 11 am November 20, 2012) and I’ll settle for quality. One of the first things I discovered was how to crowd source, to learn from the collective expertise of those with whom I connected.

Before long I had “favourited” a large number of suggestions about effective Web 2.0 tools, websites and apps. Over the last few days I have spent (too many) hours working through these. The end result is a PDF file which I have given the descriptive if rather unwieldy title of A Crowdsourced List of 55 Websites, Web Tools and Apps: Categorised by Subject Department (With two random Pin Boards, one case of doubling up and even a song) Told you it was unwieldy!


The list includes hyperlinks (or directions as to where to find an app) along with my overview and recommendations. I’m pleased to say that I have used many of the 55 and therefore know them to be effective for classroom or wider use. Though principally created for the teaching staff at my own school, I’m hoping the list will gain a wider audience. Just click on the link to access the PDF.

Image Credit: blonde20.com

Crowdsourced List of Web Tools, Websites and Apps

Please leave comments, questions or even suggestions for additions to the list.