Do you attend Khan Academy?

As you may recall from his TedTalk, “Let’s Use Video to Reinvent Education” Salman Khan started Khan Academy after he got the idea from frequently Skyping with his cousins and subsequently creating videos on YouTube to help them with their math homework. The video lessons caught on and now Khan Academy has its own website and app.

What is Khan Academy?
According to their website, “Khan Academy offers practice exercises, instructional videos, and a personalized learning dashboard that empower learners to study at their own pace in and outside of the classroom.”

What subjects does Khan Academy offer?

  • Math
  • Science
  • Economics & finance
  • Arts & humanities
  • Computing
  • Test Prep (SAT, MCAT, GMAT, IIT JEE, NCLEX-RN, CAHSEE, AP* Art History

As you can see, the subjects are focused on STEM. The “arts & humanities” sections are mostly art and some history; there is no English or writing at all. This is disappointing to an English teacher like myself, but I hope those modules are in development (or will be soon).

Who is Khan Academy for?
Everyone! Students, teachers, parents, and anyone else who wants to learn. Need to refresh a concept for a meeting? Khan Academy! Need to relearn elementary math to help your kid with homework? Khan Academy! Want to brush up on your history so you can sound knowledgeable on a date? Khan Academy! Want to study coding? Khan Academy! (Are you getting the pattern here? Good!)

Do I have to pay for Khan Academy?
No, it’s free! Forever. It’s a promise on their homepage. “For free. For everyone. Forever.”

Do I need a username/password to use Khan Academy?
Nope! You can log in to track progress, save content, etc., but it is not essential to log in to watch a video.

Are the videos hard to follow?
Some of the more advanced math may be difficult if you’re skipping around; however, in a general sense, no the videos are easy to understand and follow. There are two ways to learn in the video: visual and audio. The speaker walks the person through the topic with a drawing and audio information. Additionally, there is a transcript to follow if you want to skim through and find something specific.

Can you embed videos into your own website?
Yes! Click on a video and beneath it you’ll see a “Share” button. There is an option for embed. Paste the code into your site/blog and the result will have a heading and look like this…….

Adding fractions with like denominators: With like denominators, you’re basically just adding numerators. That’s not too bad, right? Can the resulting fraction be simplified?

Wave Interference:

Grammar Girl Podcast and the Top Ten Grammar Myths

Last year I started listening to the Grammar Girl podcast. It was a daunting task…to start at the beginning and listen to all the podcasts since it began in late 2006 and it was 2014! Nevertheless, I was up for hours upon hours of grammar.

First, I started listening to the podcast on the Podcasts app on iTunes. However, I grew weary of the advertisements. I completely understand the purpose of them, but considering I planned to go through ALL of the podcasts, I wondered…was there a better way?

I found the Grammar Girl app for iTunes this year. I can’t believe it only cost $1.99! The hours it saves me from not having to hear the same ads over and over…definitely worth the price. Plus, there is bonus content only available on the app. There are extras embedded into the track, like pictures and PDFs and bonus tracks. MORE GRAMMAR? YES PLEASE!

I love the Grammar Girl podcast and the app. I can easily favorite an episode while I’m driving to look back at the transcript later or just note the content in general.

Which leads me to this…

I’ve listened to several episodes that I’ve wanted to share. However, I cannot simply embed the track into WordPress. My only solution is to embed the transcript that contains the audio as well.

Feel free to read, listen, or do both! I highly recommend subscribing to this podcast, but you don’t have listen to all the podcasts. I’ll periodically embed the transcript from the Grammar Girl archive of podcasts that you definitely shouldn’t miss.

So here is the podcast from March 4, 2010, titled “Top Ten Grammar Myths”. Scroll down and read them all, and be sure to click to the second page to see myths 1-5.

Glogster—Replace Your Flimsy Poster with a Digital One

Glogster is a web 2.0 tool that helps students create digital posters for class projects. Unfortunately, the one glog that explains all about Glogster doesn’t work. In its place, I’ve selected a few from the Glogpedia as great representations of what Glogster can do (see below).


Glogster is a paid service. There are three pricing tiers available for elementary, secondary, and faculty. Head on over to Glogster for more specific numbers/detail.

ACCESS: Education ONLY

Sadly, Glogster and its awesomeness is only available for educational use. It has a .com address, but it is frequently called GlogsterEDU. There is no commercial product available. It is truly a shame because I think there a some business meetings that could cease to exist if a link to a Glogster was just emailed instead. Just think of how much time you could save NOT listening to THAT GUY asking the same question three times and then playing Devil’s advocate.

iPad App

Have an iPad and an a Glogster login? Then, according to the marketing copy, you can “experience the new standard for learning anytime, anywhere with our iPad application – built from the ground up for a truly engaging learning experience. See Glogpedia at its very best with a sleek new browser, and express your ideas instantly with enhanced editing functionality.” Sweet. Still need to download the free app? Here’s a link.

Glogpedia Content Library

Students make glogs and some of them are available to the public for examples, enjoyment, or you know, educating. Sometimes you just need to school someone one Newton’s Laws or the Oxford Comma using some sweet graphics and videos. If you happen to find yourself in that type of situation, visit the Glogpeida Content Library to find the perfect lecture, sans lecture*.

  • “Boom!” and “Booyah!” not included.

Sample Glogs

For the following Glogs, you may need to expand into full-screen mode as some of them are widescreen glogs. A message may also pop up about Flash. It is okay to click allow.

TEDEd: A Brief History of Plural Word…s.

From TEDEd:

All it takes is a simple S to make most English words plural. But it hasn’t always worked that way (and there are, of course, exceptions). John McWhorter looks back to the good old days when English was newly split from German — and books, names and eggs were beek, namen and eggru!

Watch the lesson on

Martin Luther King Jr. Convinced Nichelle Nichols to Stay on Star Trek

I’m sure you’ve heard the very well-earned litany of accomplishments of Martin Luther King Jr., including his famous “I have a Dream” speech. Powerful stuff, but some students may be a bit…bored…hearing the same stuff every year. So what is a teacher to do? Don’t pass up Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a bank holiday, letting it fade away as just another Monday. Dig up some of the lesser known accomplishments or get students to find a link between something they love now and a man fighting for equal rights 50 years ago.

What’s something they may not know? In the original Star Trek, Nichelle Nichol’s (Uhura) was going to leave the show after the first season, but it was Martin Luther King Jr. who convinced her to stay. He convinced her that it was important to see a black woman working as an equal alongside others of different races. She agreed and stayed. Later, in the second season, the first interracial television kiss occurred between Uhura and Cap. Kirk (Nichols & William Shatner).

In fact, both William Shatner and Nichols felt so strongly about being seen as equals that they messed up every other take so NBC was forced to use the kiss scene.

So…how many interracial couples on TV can your students name?

Bonus: A SoundCloud interview by Neil deGrasse Tyson with Nichelle Nichols that includes a discussion of her conversation with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Good Eats: Teaching the Next Generation How to Cook

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday vacation. I spent a lot of time with family and friends relaxing and eating delicious food.

Speaking of food, I spent hours watching DVRed episodes of Good Eats. It stars Alton Brown and was on both the Food Network and the Cooking Channel. It is very entertaining (not to mention educational!) to watch. Alton Brown describes it best as a combination of “Julia Child, Mr. Wizard, and Monty Python” (Wikipedia).

Each episode focuses on a food and several methods and recipes to prepare it. However, the show isn’t just simply Alton Brown standing up there adding ingredients and whisking them together. Good Eats brings in the science of cooking with supersized props, field trips, 30 second lectures, and demonstrations. There are a multitude of actors in the shows, but those aren’t just hired actors, they are the production crew for the show. In fact, over the 16 season production run, every single person (with the exception of DeAnna, Alton’s wife) has appeared on camera in some form, whether it is a hand puppet, a supersized onion, a “family” member, or the Dungeon Master.

There are so many recipes that trying to remember it all can be confusing. There are now 3 books with recipes, techniques, and pictures from the set. Good Eats: The Early YearsGood Eats: The Middle Years (with bonus DVD), and Good Eats: The Later Years all can be bought at B&N or Amazon.

Unfortunately, I have not been able to find the DVDs available for purchase on Amazon. There have been some old editions that have popped up here and there, but the prices are astronomical. Thus, I have been DVRing as many episodes as I can. I don’t know how well that will work in a classroom environment. However, there is a beacon of light!

Recently, Netflix added 39 episodes of Good Eats to its collection, titled Good Eats: The Collection. It seems Food Network and HGTV did the collection thing with a bunch of their hit TV shows at the start of December 2014. But, as some of you may know, how long they will be available on Netflix is a mystery. I hope they add more soon!

But what if you don’t have Netflix? No worries, you can purchase individual episodes for $1.99 from Amazon (sadly, even prime members must pay!) A cursory glance through the seasons on Amazon appears that all episodes are available for purchase.

Here are a few scenes different episodes from Good Eats! To change the episode, click on the “playlist” button.


Podcast Review: English Pronunciation Pod

One of my main complaints from my ESL/ELL students is that people cannot understand them when they speak. Grammar books and bilingual dictionaries don’t help them when they want to converse with native speakers or simply go about their lives in the United States.

I sympathize with my students greatly and empathized with them slightly. Too many high school and college Spanish courses have taught me that I sound like a dummy when I speak to my native-speaking professor.

Thus, I searched to find materials that will actually help them reduce their accent in a meaningful way.  There are too many pronunciation tools out there that have students repeat words and sounds without telling them how to make those sounds.  A student can hear “dog” over and over, but if they don’t know to drop their jaw to produce the vowel sound, it will always be said with an accent (discounting children…their brains are wired for language differently than adults).

Enter in Charles Becker and his podcast, English Pronunciation Pod.  I found this podcast several years ago and have used it over and over again with numerous students.  They love it.  They love it because it tells them how to speak English, including: what they are probably doing wrong, what “wrong” sounds like, and common mistakes for some languages.  Students have found his pronunciation easy to understand and like listening to him.  Of course, some of the really novice students have too much of a difficulty understanding him so this podcast is best used with students who know English but want to improve their pronunciation.

I really like that this podcast has transcripts on its website for students to follow along.  However, he could have used a better editor…there are some glaring problems that Microsoft Word can fix quite easily and quickly.  I like to copy and paste the web transcript into a Word document, fix the errors (save it so I only have to do it once!), and print it off for my students to use while they listen to the podcast.  This allows them to read and hear at the same time.  Unfortunately, the transcript isn’t a word for word transcription.  It seems to be the podcast in visual form.  It leaves out some digressions.  It does confuse my students at first, but then they get used to his format and appreciate the succinctness of the transcript for future reference.

Podcasts can be downloaded via iTunes to an iPad or iPhone.  I have them all downloaded to my iPad.  However, it is also possible to listen to podcasts on the web.  You can listen to the podcasts on the archive page or the transcript page.

The most unfortunate thing about this podcast is that it is no longer being updated.  I do not know why.  Awhile ago I emailed Charles Becker telling him I used this podcast frequently and would love more podcasts.  He did reply back indicating he would publish more podcasts.  However, only a couple podcasts were published in 2012.  Most of the podcasts were published in 2008-2011.

You can also purchase his “full pronunciation course” (Best Accent Training MP3s) that you hear an advertisement for at the end of every podcast (I usually stop the podcast before that…my students understand and appreciate it).  I’ve looked into it before.  It costs $75 and consists of most of the same material that is presented in the podcast.  Thus, I have not purchased it.  Let me know if you have purchased it and find it to be vastly different from the podcasts!

Overall: I love this podcast.  I have learned more about my own language while listening to this podcast.  It has helped me become a better teacher and has helped my ESL/ELL students reduce their accent and sound more like an American.

The History of English…in 10 minutes

The Open University has brought us the History of English…in 10 Minutes.  It’s educational, concise, and entertaining.  What more could you ask for?

There are originally 10 videos and the 11th video is all 10 of them combined.  Thus, I’ve only embedded the 11th video.  If you are interested in a single chapter video, you can find it individually on YouTube, The Open University’s website and on iTunes U (with transcripts).