Dictionary.com widget in iOS Notifications screen provides an SAT-level word question-of-the-moment

The built-in touch-to-define feature in iOS is an easy way for a student to access the meaning of a word in the context of reading. Membean has been a great tool, too, for expanding my students' vocabulary, but recently I discovered that the Dictionary.com App has an accompanying widget that appears in iOS's notification screen.

The Dictionary.com Widget displays a recent word-of-the-day and three possible definitions. Pick the right one and click "Next Word."

The Dictionary.com widget will display a word and three possible meanings. Users can access the widget by swiping down from the top of the screen to reveal the notifications panel, answer the multiple choice question, and retrieve another question. A simple swipe up hides the notifications.

The Dictionary.com Widget will display correct or incorrect feedback within the notification.

The widget is hidden until you "Edit" your notifications panel. To do this, swipe down from the top of the screen, scroll to the bottom of the panel, and select "Edit."   All apps that support widgets will appear, and you can toggle them off and on.

Swipe down to reveal notifications. Scroll down and press "Edit" to add/remove widgets.

Use the (+) symbol to add the Dictionary.com Widget to your Notifications.

Sometimes navigating to an app and loading it can take 5-10 seconds.  With notifications, a simple swipe-down reveals the question-of-the-day from Dictionary.com. Students can answer 2 or 3 questions in that same 5-10 seconds during down time between classes, on the morning commute, or whenever.

How my Students Use Membean

Last May my students helped me assemble a video showcasing Membean, a comprehensive English vocabulary trainer that we've used at Brophy for the last three years.  My sophomores train 45 minutes per week, and my juniors train 60.  Since students are the end-user, they often find bugs or identify ways to improve the product.  The CEO of Membean has told me numerous times that the students' feature requests have shaped the way the product has improved over the years.  Close working relationships with edtech companies like Membean have made me excited to integrate productive tools into my teaching.

An introduction to the use of Membean (comprehensive vocabulary trainer) by students at Brophy College Preparatory in Mr. John Damaso's English classes.

UPDATE 26 May 2015: Membean featured this video in their Teacher Spotlight.

Google Docs for Collaborative Text Annotations

As a way into a poem with students, I often "crowd-source" the initial analysis through collaborative text annotation in Google Docs. Today I read them the poem "There Will Come Soft Rains" by Sara Teasdale. They were familiar with the poem from Ray Bradbury's short story of the same title. After reading the poem aloud (displayed onscreen), I said, "Go!" and each student was tasked with highlighitnig and commenting on a single word in the poem with a somewhat vague charge: annotate the word for its significance.

Students analyze diction choices in the Teasdale poem and then deepen the analysis by replying to each other.

In three to five minutes, you get a fully annotated poem and many inroads to conversation about rhyme, poetic devices, allusions, imagery, on and on.  Docs on the iPad is a little clumsy for students to navigate, but touch-holding a highlighted word will allow them to see the comment and then reply to it.  I encourage students to deepen the analysis of the word in question or to ask a follow-up for the original commenter. 

Today I showed them the Lit Genius page for "There Will Come Soft Rains" and said, "We can do better than this." They did.