Tech for Teach


grammarly-logo-580x136I check a lot of my EFL student’s writing, especially the stuff that goes up on a blog and out to the world at large. I used to spend about half my correction time with students on articles, a common difficulty here in Japan. Now I just get my students to use grammarly, and that helps a lot.

Grammarly is a grammar-checking application on the web, free for the basic version. It works very well for many of the errors students are prone to, but can give false positives or miss some pretty common errors. It is not a replacement for sitting down with the student at their laptop and going through the text in question. (Correcting and sending errors to the student does not improve their writing.)

Once the student sets up a free account, they see a very simple interface.Grammarly



Students can upload documents to get checked and archived. I have done this with a couple of samples here. Notice the numbers of errors, we can immediately see who needs the most work, Student 1 is a pretty good writer, with only 65 errors, Student 2 needs a lot more correction with 222 errors.


Articles top the list of Student 2 errors, and clicking on the carat opens a small window to explain, if needed. She needs more than grammar help, and would benefit from another check after a rewrite. Student 1, though, is ready to use the program, with only a few errors to deal with.


The suggestions Grammarly makes are usually spot on, but students start to trust the program too much, accepting the changes without considering them. That is why it is important to sit down with them and go through the texts, at least on one or more passes, to show that Grammarly does not catch everything.

The biggest help for students is the Extension, a little software that you can add to your browser, so that grammar checking is integrated into anything you write on the web, including email. My students use it with Google Docs.

If you you want to use Grammarly with Microsoft Word, you have to get the premium edition ($135 a year). It also catches many other errors (noted in the free version with each check). I have a premium edition that I load student documents into to speed checking with the students.

Tech for Teach

Bibblio and curated search

If your  students are overwhelmed by search results at Google, you may want to give them a set of training wheels in the form of a curated search engine. Teachers and other students select results so that the search engine only returns the best. They also are the safest, if that is important to you or your younger learners.


Enter a search term and Bibblio returns a list of sources tailored to classroom research. You can select which kind of media you want (Video, Books, Visuals, Audio, Articles), and you can sort by Top Rated, Most Visited, Most Shared and Most Recent. Your search terms end up in a small window on the top right, with suggestions for narrowing that search.Bibblio___Search

Bibblio* is just getting started, a new beta, but a promising one. Right now, the content is skewed toward videos, and there is a distinct lack of articles and books. I would expect this to be resolved quickly, but for now, it looks like the selection is still mechanical. They are depending on crowdsourced selection, which will vastly improve the results. So please, keep checking in until it is ready for class.

I just want to echo back to two related posts here. The first is Choosito! a search engine for K-12 that allows you to set the difficulty of language of the results. The second is InstaGrok, a mind-map with attached resources like video, articles, images and concepts. You can also add notes and save your searches, which makes this the best writing tool.

Check them all out and decide which is best for you.

*Notice the extra B in Don’t use .com, the autocorrect dumps you at a different site.

Need a list of Past Tools?

Tech for Teach

Tuesday is for Tools: Video Handbook

OK, I am going to cheat here. This is actually 3 tools in one. The first one is PDF. Any PDF file is a great tool. You can make a PDF file from almost any other file, an MS Word file, a web page. IT is portable, you can add pictures, links, even embed videos in them. Think of it like a container.

The best way to make a pdf is with Adobe Acrobat. The full version, not the free reader. But that costs about $100. Even if you are a teacher. There are lots of conversion software websites out there, they can make pdfs for you. But I like to use Google Docs, because it can download files you make in many different formats, one of them pdfs.

Using_Video_In_The_Classroom_–_A_Teacher’s_Handbook_-_EFL_2_0_Teacher_TalkOne PDF I have discovered is David Duebel’s Video Handbook. It is 50 pages of hands-on tips for using video for language teaching. David is a consultant for English Central, so the last few pages are a little focused on that website, but the quality and quantity of good information can’t be beat. Click on the link just above this picture to download the PDF of the handbook.

I like the Best Practices (page 5), and although we can argue about some of the assertions on page 6, such as “Captions: High frequency viewing of subtitled video leads to large improvement in fluency (Koostra and Beentjes, 1999, 56-8)”, there are a lot of useful tips with supporting research, again made available through links, because he used PDFs.

But my favorite link in the handbook is on page 11. It is an embedded video (this is tool #3), by one of my favorite video producers, Radio Lab. Get their podcast. But they also do videos. Get your pen and paper ready. Vocabulary quiz. How many words can you find?