Anki (cont.)

The uses of Anki are pretty obvious, and I've already touched upon memorizing vocabulary in foreign language classes.

One feature that I forgot to mention about Anki is that you can attach images, audio and video to your cards!  This opens teachers and students up to many possibilities.

When I used to teach Music History, I expected my students to be able to identify pieces of music from listening to excerpts.  I can imagine a student making a deck in Anki by attaching audio files for the pieces of music she is responsible for on the front side, and writing the title and composer on the back side.

In my Music Theory classes, students need to memorize key signatures.  (There are only fifteen of them in Western music.)  One could create the deck the simple way or the elaborate way.  In the simple way, write out the accidentals in the key signature on the front side ("F# C# G# D#") and write the key on the back side (E major or C# minor).  The elaborate way would involve creating images of a staff, clef, and key signature, like the one below, and attach each image to the front of the card.

Every year, my Precalculus students hate the unit on Trigonometric Identities.  I expect them to memorize many (but not all) of them.  For this deck, one could write the name of the identity on the front ("Double Identity (sin)"), and the trig identity on the back ("sin 2x = 2 sin x cos x").

A couple of my students in my Calculus AB class last year actually made flash cards (using split index cards) with derivative and integral formulas. You can type simple math equations in Anki, but the derivative and integral formulas use more complex math symbols.  It is still possible to input the complex math symbols, but the process is, well, complex.  It involves the LaTeX, a typesetting system that I've seen students use in college but not in high school.

I think that using Anki would help students meet the following standards:
ISTE Standards - Students

  • 2a & 2b
  • 3b 
  • 5c
  • 6a & 6b


When I said previously that I studied the Korean language for a summer in Seoul, Korea, that wasn't the first time I had done that.  In fact, that was the sixth time.  Every summer from 2007 to 2013 (except for 2010) I studied Korean in Seoul.  Of course, memorizing vocabulary was one of many things I had to do, and I had wanted a program that would help in that area.  In 2009 I started using Anki.

Anki is basically a flashcard program which uses active recall testing and spaced repetition to help a user memorize something.  According to the User Manual, active recall testing
means being asked a question and trying to remember an answer.  This is in contrast to passive study, where we read, watch or listen to something without pausing to consider if we know the answer. Research has shown that active recall testing is far more effective at building strong memories than passive study.
Regrading spaced repetition, the manual also states:
The spacing effect was reported by a German psychologist in 1885. He observed that we tend to remember things more effectively if we spread reviews out over time, instead of studying multiple times in one session. Since the 1930s there have been a number of proposals for utilizing the spacing effect to improve learning, in what has come to be called spaced repetition.
There are two basic components to Anki.  One is the software/app that you can download.  It's available for Windows, Mac, Linux/BSD, iOS, and Android.  All versions are free, except for iOS devices ($24.99), interesting enough.  Once you download the software or app and install it, you start by creating your first deck.

Once you create a deck, you can start studying the deck with Anki.  The program gives you the "front" side of a "flashcard" and asks you for the "back" side, the answer.  You do not input the answer anywhere -- just hit the "Show Answer" button.  When learning a new card, three rating buttons appear at the bottom.  You press the button based on how well you learned the card.  If you didn't know the answer, or had the wrong answer, press "Again," and you will see the card again in about 1 minute.  If you knew the answer, or if you weren't 100% sure you had the answer, press "Good" and you will see the card again in 10 minutes.  If you knew the answer immediately, press "Easy," and you won't see the card again for at least 4 days.

If you a reviewing a card you previously learned, you will see four rating buttons instead of three.  Check the manual for more details learning and reviewing cards.  You can also check the progress of learning a deck.

If you don't want to create your own decks, you can use decks that other users have shared.  This is the "Web 2.0" component of Anki, appropriately called Ankiweb.  Of course, you will have to register for an account (which is free), and afterwards, you will eventually see the page shown in the image below.

Click on the "Get Shared Decks" to download other users' decks.  A lot of the decks deal with language learning, but there are also decks related to Science, Geography, Mathematics, Music, and so forth.  You can write reviews about the shared decks that you've used, if you wish.  I've obviously liked Anki, and I think it helped me pass those Korean language classes.  After last summer I had decided to stop attending Sogang University, so if I have the time (yeah, right), I hope to continue studying on my own, using Anki among other things.

Blabberize (cont.)

If you are "daring" enough to try Blabberize in the classroom, there are some uses that I can think of.
- demonstrate knowledge on any subject area
- listening and speaking practice in foreign language classes
- performance of songs

This site lists the SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) of using Blabberize.  This site shows a lesson plan in using Blabberize with poetry.

As I said in my previous post, I'm thinking about using it for a (short) lecture on a topic.  A number of teachers have done just that; here is an example, where the teacher talks about moving the decimal point and what that does to a number.

I think that using Blabberize would help students meet the following standards:
National Core Arts Standards - Music - Technology Strand (replace "X" in the following with "I," "II," or "III," without the quotes. These refer to the level of proficiency.)
  • MU:Cr1.1.T.Xa
  • MU:Cr2.1.T.Xa
  • MU:Cr3.1.T.Xa
  • MU:Cr3.2.T.Xa
  • MU:Pr4.1.T.Xa
  • MU:Pr6.1.T.Xa

ISTE Standards - Students
  • 1a & 1b
  • 2a, 2b, 2c
  • 6b & 6c



I hesitated in posting about this, because there are many issues with this tool.  I decided to post about it anyway because it is hilarious, and sometimes, students (and teachers) need a laugh.  So here it is: Blabberize.

Blabberize allows you to upload a picture, record your voice, and add a "mouth" that "talks" as the audio is played.  It's free and pretty easy to use.  As with other tools, you need to create an account.  Note: Elementary students need not apply -- the terms of service states that you have to be 13 or over.  There are, of course, limitations with this being free.  The odd thing, however, is that while there is a mention of a "premium membership," the signup and payment for this membership hasn't been implemented on the site yet (????).

To create a "blabber," as Blabberize calls it, you first upload a picture.  It's probably a good idea to be mindful of copyright here.  For my sample I chose this image from Wikimedia Commons.  Next, you make a "mouth."  A red oval appears that represents the "mouth."  You click and drag on purple and green dots to change the size and shape.  The part of the image inside the red oval is the piece that moves up and down, so in my case, I shrunk the red oval considerably.

After making your "mouth," you record some audio, or upload an audio file.  I prefer making my own audio files using a separate program.  As I mentioned in my PodOmatic post, I use Audacity.  The site says that you can only upload a 30-second clip, but actually, the audio clip can be longer, as long as the file is less than 2MB (2,097,152 bytes).

The last step is to preview your work.  I believe that you can go to a previous step if necessary -- I had to reshape my "mouth" and it seemed to work.  Hit the "OK" button, and you have your blabber.  Here is my sample.  (Don't laugh.)

(So you are probably asking, "What is he saying in the audio?"  I mentioned in a previous post that I spent my last summer in Seoul, Korea, studying the Korean language at Sogang University.  Before the final exam I created an audio file of me reciting some Korean proverbs and their meaning, to help me in memorizing them.  The file was originally a WAV file, but that was too big, so I had to convert it to MP3.)

You can also convert your blabber into a video file (MPEG) and download it, but it's a "test feature" on the site, so the feature can be removed, or be restricted to "premium members," in the future.  I did this and my sample blabber became an 11.7MB MPEG video (250x500 px, 24 fps).  You can't control any aspect of the video file (like resolution, framerate, conversion factor, etc.).

I mentioned that there are some issues with this site.  Here are two big ones, in my opinion.
  1. There doesn't seem to be any strict controls on the content in the site, so it's possible that students could find blabbers with inappropriate content.
  2. There is a limit as to how many times anyone can access a particular blabber.

Well, "how many times" isn't really accurate.  The site calls this "embed bandwidth."  According to the FAQ, "Embed bandwidth is how many bytes of outgoing data transfer we allow views of your embedded blabbers to consume."  Anytime someone plays my blabber, he/she uses up my embed bandwidth.  I am limited to 2GB (2,147,483,648 bytes) a month.  So if I have just one blabber that takes up 2MB (2,097,152 bytes) when a person watches it, then my blabber can be played only 1,024 times in a month, and afterwards, the next person who tries to play my blabber will get a "Personal Bandwidth Exceeded" error.  You can check to see how much bandwidth has been used in your account page. 

Despite the issues, I had a blast in creating my sample blabber.  I'm tempted to create one of me lecturing on a lesson for my Calculus class next year, just for kicks.

Noteflight (cont.)

So how would I use Noteflight in the classroom?  Here are some specific examples that I came up with off the top of my head:

In Music Theory...
- the teacher could write out a bass line and ask students to harmonize in 4-part harmony.
- the teacher could write out exercises in rhythm, sight reading, dictation, etc. for students to try at home.In Band/Orchestra...
- the teacher could notate a piece that the students are rehearsing on, so that at the home the students could play along with the Noteflight score.In Chorus...
- the teacher could notate a piece in such a way so that separate parts could be played, allowing students to learn their part outside of class.
In Composition...
- students could submit their own compositions for feedback and grading.

I think that using Noteflight would help students meet the following standards:
National Core Arts Standards - Music - Composition and Theory Strand (replace "X" in the following with "I," "II," or "III," without the quotes. These refer to the level of proficiency.)
  • MU:Cr2.1.C.Xa
  • MU:Cr2.1.C.Xb
  • MU:Cr3.1.C.Xa
  • MU:Cr3.2.C.Xa
  • MU:Re7.1.C.Xa
  • MU:Re7.2.C.Xa

ISTE Standards - Students
  • 1a & 1b
  • 2a, 2b & 2d
  • 6b, 6c & 6d



Those who use music notation software are undoubtedly familiar with the two big ones: Finale and Sibelius.  There used to be Web 2.0 tools where one could share scores produced by the respective software.  For Finale, it was Finale Showcase, and for Sibelius, it was SibeliusMusic.  However, Finale Showcase has shut down, and SibeliusMusic is closed and is succeeded by Score Exchange.  (I am a Finale user, so I do not know how SibeliusMusic/Score Exchange works.)  I found another Web 2.0 tool, however, for music: Noteflight.

According to their About page:
Noteflight, LLC is located in Boston, Massachusetts, and is dedicated to reinventing the way that people create, share and use written music. Our product doesn't merely improve on other music notation software: it lets written music take advantage of the full power of the web as we know it today. Noteflight is a powerful full-featured application to edit, display and play back music notation in a standard web browser, integrated in an online library of musical scores that anyone can publish, link to, or embed.

As with other tools, you have to create an account first.  There is a free membership, but there are some limitations.  For instance, you can only create up to 10 scores, you cannot print individual parts, you cannot mix the audio, etc.  For more features, you will need a paid membership ($49 a year), which they call "Noteflight Crescendo."  Once you create an account and sign in, every time thereafter you access the Noteflight website, you will see your own "home page" with information about the scores you have uploaded.

With Finale Showcase and SibeliusMusic, you needed the corresponding music notation software to create your music scores.  With Noteflight, however, it's all built-in.  I think, however, that it would be helpful if you have experience using Finale and Sibelius -- there are so many notes and symbols that you can type into the score that it can be overwhelming.

It looks like for me that Flash is used to make the music creation work.  You can import/export to/from different formats, though I have not tested this.  You can add or remove staves as necessary.  You can play back what you type in, but on my computer it didn't sound the greatest.  Check the User Guide to see all the things you can do.

I finished notating a piece, an SATB chorale by J. S. Bach.  You can look at it more closely and have it play back here.  It did take me over an hour to type all of this in, for only sixteen measures.  I hope that it will take less time the more I use it.

You can create our own music compositions, or you can notate existing music (as long as you respect the copyright)  Of course, there are options to share your work, as you can see in the below image.  You will need an account, I believe, in order to comment on other people's work.

I must say, Noteflight is an awesome tool.  I am also an amateur composer, and since I have no aspirations to become the next Beethoven, I may notate my own music on Noteflight and share with others to get feedback.  If you have experience with music notation, I welcome you to try out Noteflight.

PodOmatic (cont.)

I would like to clarify what I said previously about creating podcasts: you don't have to use Audacity.  According to the help page, you can use the built-in PodOmatic Audio Recorder.  Or, if you wish to use a separate program to record and mix audio, PodOmatic recommends Windows Movie Maker, Garage Band, Myna (dead link, and no longer available; see here), and Audacity.  Also, note that Audacity records and mixes audio only.  You will need something else if you want to create video podcasts.

Having said all this, I tried using the PodOmatic Audio Recorder yesterday and was not able to save my recording.  I think there is an issue with Flash.  I also tried using Safari on my iPad, but I couldn't even record.  The iPad is the only Apple product I own, so I don't know what the situation is with Flash on a Mac.  If anyone has successfully using the PodOmatic Audio Recorder, please let me know in the comments section (and mention if you are using Windows, Mac, Linux, or other).

Finally, I think that using PodOmatic would help students meet the following standards:
National Core Arts Standards - Music - Music Technology Strand (replace "x" in the following with "Ia," "IIa," or "IIIa," without the quotes. These refer to the level of proficiency.)
  • MU:Cr1.1.T.x
  • MU:Cr2.1.T.x
  • MU:Cr3.1.T.x
  • MU:Cr3.2.T.x

ISTE Standards - Students
  • 1a & 1b
  • 2a & 2b
  • 6a & 6b



One of the tools used for yesterday's ET630 class summary was PodOmatic, a platform for users to create and publish audio and video podcasts.  The educational value of podcasts is immense.  Course lectures can be had for free (look for example at Khan Academy and MIT Open Courseware).  Although I do not teach foreign language in school, I see the value in using podcasts in foreign language classes: learning vocabulary, reciting dialogues, conducting interviews, etc.  (I did some of this in the summer of 2013 when I took Korean language classes at Sogang University in Seoul, Korea.)

You start by signing up for a free account on the PodOmatic website.  PRO members are allowed more bandwidth and they can get more storage.  There isn't a separate app for mobile devices or tablets, per se, but there are apps for Android and iOS that allows you to listen or watch podcasts on PodOmatic.  Once you register, you will eventually have your own URL for your own podcasts (here is mine).

(Note that once you post your first PodOmatic podcast, you get a free 30-day PRO membership, which is nice.)

According to this help page, you can use the PodOmatic Audio Recorder to capture audio, as long as you have a microphone (I haven't used this feature yet).  You can also use a separate program to record and edit audio, which is what I did.  I would recommend Audacity, which is FREE.  Once you create your podcast, you upload it to the website.  One nice touch is the ability to upload a picture as well, a useful feature.  Go to my PodOmatic page and see the podcasts I have created thus far.