No Hablo Español? Try these Free iPad Translation Tools for your ESL Classroom

As ESL teachers we all have students who come to our class with zero to very little knowledge of English.  The communication barrier is such that we sometimes regret not ever having to have a working knowledge of another language.  

Yes, I have a number of newcomers who are in my class each year.  Every time I look into their eyes, I could tell there is so much they want to say but they just couldn’t find the right words to say them.  And guess what, the feeling is mutual.  I grope for words – words in Spanish, just so I could at least say something they can understand.

Well, thanks to technology, we can now find a good number of translation apps that can save our day in the classroom.

What I do is let my ESL newcomers use the iPad in order to translate my directions or their classwork assignments in their native language.  Translations are not always perfect, but they have provided me and my newcomers a way to communicate.

So here are three of the apps that you may want to try:

1.  iTranslate appiTranslate- Designed specifically for iPhone and iPad,, this translation tool has over 90 languages to choose from with a voice output that lets you select between a male or a female voice and even control the speech rate for some language.  It also has a dictionary that gives you various meanings of a certain word and it allows you to share your translation vía Facebook or Twitter.  The downside, of course, is that with the free app you can only tupe the words that need to be translated.  If you need a voice input, you have to pay for it and all other premium features.

iTranslate screenshot on my iPad Mini

iTranslate screenshot on my iPad Mini


Conversation Master screenshot on my iPad Mini

Conversation Master screenshot on my iPad Mini

Conversation Master screenshot on my iPad mini 2

Conversation Master screenshot on my iPad mini 2

2.  Conversation Master appConversation Master – this app serves as a language learning as well as a translator app.  Available in 10 languages, this app has built-in Q & A styled expressions made for real conversations and arranged in different categories.   With the free app, you are only allowed one free category which is the Conversation category, so, you need to purchase the PRO versión to access all other features.  But do not fret.  Just use the “interpretation” function to tupe in words, phrases, or sentencies that need to be translated to another language.  You can also listen to the translated words.

3.   Speak and Translate appSpeak & Translate – So far my most favorite translating app,  this tool allows you to do text-to-text, text-to-speech, and voice-to-voice translations.    My beginning English language learners love this app because of these aforementioned features that are available for free.  However, there is only a limited number of translations that you can do per day, and that becomes its downside.  Otherwise, this is my most recommended app. Speak and Translate screenshot on my iPad mini

Please be reminded, though, that these tools require an internet connection for you to use them.


Wake Up to Sunrise: A Digital Calendar App

If you’re looking for a free digital calendar app that is compatible with just about any device, look no further because Sunrise is meant to make your hectic life a little bit easier.

Sunrise calendar app

Sunrise calendar app

Made for Google Calendar, iCloud and Exchange, Sunrise synchronizes in real-time in all of your devices.

Yes, I do wake up to Sunrise.  It gives me reminders for the day, like who among my Facebook friends have birthdays, or whether I have meetings at work.  And because I work at a school setting and my daughter is in the same school system, it is important for me to know if today is an A Day or a B Day..  Sunrise tells me that because I synced my school calendar with it.

A screenshot of my Sunrise calendar app

A screenshot of my Sunrise calendar app

All these and so many other cool features like weather forecast, timezone support, and tagging location to events make this calendar app very well-recommended.

And wait.  There’s a new version (version 3.0) that’s especially designed for iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus with additional apps like Google Tasks and Eventbrite, and for Android with push for Google and Todoist and Trello apps.

The screenshots below are all from Google Play store:

Sunrise calendar app on Android

Sunrise calendar app on Android

3-day week view of Sunrise calendar app on Android

3-day week view of Sunrise calendar app on Android

Sunrise calendar app on Android

Sunrise calendar app on Android

People, maps and birthdays on Sunrise calendar app

People, maps and birthdays on Sunrise calendar app

Sunrise calendar app on your desktop

Sunrise calendar app on your desktop

So, make your mornings bright with Sunrise calendar app.

Click the links to download the app on iTunes or on Google Play

It feels like Winter already, so let’s keep ourselves warm and bundled up!

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iPads in my ESOL Classroom

Over the summer, I attended the Transforming Education Through Digital Learning (TEDL) Summer Academy sponsored by Title 1 Technology Office during which they announced that they were accepting applications for a TEDL Classroom technology grant. Having had very strong interests in the use of technology in the classroom in general and in emerging pedagogical practices such as blended learning and flipped classrooms, I saw it as a great opportunity to transform my ESOL classroom into one that allows for multi-media platforms of learning.

The application required that you answer a series of questions regarding your knowledge of technology in education and its impact on students’ learning. I, of course, applied and became one of the lucky recipients of the TEDL Classroom grant this year.   This grant provides me with a classroom set of 30 iPads with sturdy cases, a MacBook Air, a mini-iPad for the teacher, and a mobile cart.

mobile cart

Our iPad mobile cart

The iPad case

The iPad case

This has been a truly exciting year for me and for my ESOL students, as well as for all other students at my school who can now have the opportunity to use digital resources and interactive tools in the classroom. With thoughtful planning, adequate knowledge, and appropriate use of various resources, this one-to-one iPad initiative truly has the capacity to transform teaching and learning in the elementary classroom. I applaud the initiative of the Title 1 Technology Office in allowing my classroom and other elementary classrooms to become TEDL Classrooms.

Kindergarten ESOL kids using iPad to practice letter sounds.

My Kindergarten ESOL kids using iPad to practice letter sounds.

My 5th grade ESOL students getting ready to use Edmodo for their reading comprehension practice

My 5th grade ESOL students getting ready to use Edmodo for their reading comprehension practice

Best Apps for Digital Note-taking and Document-Sharing

I am one of the firm believers that traditional note-taking (using pencil and paper, that is) can never be a thing of the past.  There is a lot of brain activity – the processing, synthesizing, and distilling of information – that is going on when we take notes.  However, with the cutting-edge technology that drives 21st century learning now, we are provided with several other options to do the same – organize information, look at what’s important, chunk it into several pieces of detailed information, and summarize it – all in many different note-taking formats.  And these are all surprisingly easy-to-use digital platforms that allow for a pleasant experience and are accessible to us where ever we go.  And the best thing is we can share these notes online – an easy way to collaborate in this global age.  

As a teacher and as a parent who has watched my daughter transition from traditional note-taking to digital note-taking when she reached middle-school, here is my stand on this matter:  Let our kids master the art of note-taking using pencil and paper.  When they reach a stage when they can decide which format works best for them, then let them explore these options.  You will find that they will try these note-taking apps on their tablet or laptop, but at the same time, they will still do traditional note- taking.  At this day and age, there are so many ways to address their multi-sensory learning styles.

Here is a list of apps that I and my middle-school daughter consider as really good options for note-taking and document-sharing:

Wunderlist1.  Wunderlist –  This app is perfect for your To-Do Lists. You can create grocery lists, wish lists, and To-Dos and share them with your family, friends or classmates.   Another wonderful thing about this is the Comments feature that allows you to talk about your lists with other people.   You can even share this with the public so others can discover what other people do, see or make by just clicking the “Discover Lists.” This major multitasker is also free for all your devices.

Post-it Plus2.  Post-it Plus – Are you using Post-it notes for note-taking during class sessions, meetings, or planning days?  Try this Post-it Plus app on any of your IOS devices and take your brainstorming sessions to another level.  You can use the app to capture as much as 50 Post-it notes from your collaborative session, then organize your notes on your board, and finally,  share your organized board with your teammates.  That’s how easy it is.

Evernote3.  Evernote – This app is completely Universal. With various side apps, such as Skitch and Penultimate, you can do pretty much anything such as save PDF Files, take notes, capture handwritten notes, add pictures and web clippings, and share them with your friends.  One best thing is about this is it can transform your notes into a reader-friendly layout.

images-14.  OneNote – This app is on your phone, tablet and computer. Its similar to Evernote but more closely resembles the binders you had as a kid. Its has “Notebooks” and “Sections” with multicolored labels. You can change the font, move the text around, clip webpages, send in an email, share with your friends, make a to-do list with various features, snap pictures, and make handwritten highlights and notes.

Simplenote     5.  Simplenote – As the term itself suggests, this app has clean, easy-to-use features, the way note-taking should be.   You can back up and sync your notes across all devices and share them with others.  Your notes are easily searchable and accessible through tags.

Go ahead, and try these digital note-taking apps!

Happy cold November!

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Yes, Kids Can Blog, Too!

Hello, fellow educators!

I have been working on fully integrating technology in my ESOL classes this year.  I must admit it isn’t easy as it looks like because it entails a lot of careful planning of lessons and activities.  I want to make sure that students  also achieve a comfort level in using the technology.  After a few weeks though, of talking about digital citizenship, the features of the tablet and some basic keyboarding practice, I finally am able to launch our class blog.  You bet,  my 3rd and 5th grade ESOL students are on the roll to being kid bloggers!  And if anybody asks how kids can blog, my kids will beg to differ.   They will tell you:  Yes, we kids can blog, too!

After narrowing down my top sites to Edmodo and, I decided to use for our class blogs.  All my students have to do is to go to our class website, and click “Our Class Blog” on the navigation bar.

 A Screen Shot of my Class Website

 Then, it will take them to our class blog page.  All they have to do is click on their grade level to access the blog site, select their name from the list, and log in with their password, which I have provided to them.

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 Their dashboard on looks like this:

A Screen Shot of my 5th Grade ESOL Class Blog Site

Last week in 5th grade ESOL class, we focused on character study.  I posted a question on character study that they are required to answer.  They are also required to at least post one response or comment to a classmate’s post.  Of course, as a teacher, I deemed it necessary to comment on each of my students’ posts.  I want my students to know that I am reading their posts.

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Blogging can be a very  fun and engaging way to let students write.  They are able to read their classmates’ posts and comment on them.  At the same time, they are able to correct their own spelling mistakes through the computer’s or tablet’s spell check feature.  So go ahead and try with your students!

By the way, a big thank you to Blogaholic Designs for the free Blogger template!

Happy blogging!

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The Beauty and Simplicity of Symbaloo

     As teachers, we are known to be excellent curators of things that are relevant to our everyday work – whether it be organizing our classroom library by lexiles and genres or grouping our lesson plans and teaching materials by subject matter.  And now, we live in a world where digital literacy is no longer just an option but a required skill set for teachers and students.  Hence, our ability to select, organize, and manage the most useful and meaningful online resources has also become necessary.  This is not to mention the many social media sites that have become part of our everyday lives.      The good news is, there are a number of social bookmarking sites that have increasingly grown in popularity.  One of my latest favorites is Symbaloo.  You can use it as a homepage on your Mac or PC.  You can also download the mobile app on your Android phone or iPhone.  On your iPad, the homepage can be set using the Safari web browser.  To learn more about Symbaloo, check out my infographics below:

Keep your online life sweet and simple.  Try Symbaloo.

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Five Great Uses of Interactive Whiteboard Apps


     Step aside, Promethean, InterWrite, and Smart Board.   Teachers would certainly love to have you in their classrooms, but even without one they can still use the technology with almost similar functionality, now that interactive whiteboard apps are becoming more and more sophisticated.

     I think that interactive whiteboard apps are one of the best digital tools ever created. I am one of those teachers who are not lucky enough to have a Smart Board in my classroom, but after discovering these wonderful apps such as Educreations, ShowMe and Doceri, I think I will be okay without a Smart Board.

      Here are some of the great uses of an interactive whiteboard app:

  1. You can use it to reteach a lesson. If you have students that missed your previous lesson or needed to review it, you can use a corner of your room to set up a learning station with an iPad so that they can just click on it and watch your recorded lesson using the app.
  2. You can use it as an additional resource to help struggling students do their homework. For example, by explaining a Math problem with diagrams and step-by-step solution, completing a homework becomes a lot easier.
  3. You can make your lessons more visually appealing and engaging. Students love to use technology in the classroom. It will amaze them more to hear your voice on your recorded presentation and watch it as if you are teaching it live in the classroom.
  4. You can manage your time more efficiently in the classroom. As long as your presentation is made accessible to students, you spend less time re-teaching or explaining your lesson over and over again.
  5. You can share your lessons online. These interactive whiteboard apps allow you to do a voice-over recording of your lesson and insert images or diagrams, which can then be uploaded on the web and shared with your students, parents or colleagues. If you choose to make it public, you can share it with anyone!

     The more sophisticated app called Doceri allows you to connect your iPad wirelessly to a computer, which will then let you control the computer through your iPad. I will explain more about this amazing app in another blog.

     In the meantime, go ahead and check out these apps:  Educreations, Explain Everything, Screenchomp, ShowMe, Doceri.

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Digital Tools to Use as Warm-up or Extension Activities in the Classroom

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     What an amazing school year it has been! My ESOL kids had lots of fun with their International Day projects.  I was able to use a number of digital tools in my classroom that my students truly enjoyed and shared the resources I used with my colleagues in one professional development session.

     And so my Summer vacation officially begins. This is the best time to do some gardening, to clean out closets, to get rid of the clutter in every nook and corner of the house, (which I hope I never have to do!), but most of all, to spend some quality time with my family. But not quite, because right now, I am in the process of compiling some apps and sites that I thought would be useful in my class, either as a warm-up or an extension activity. This, however, requires that students have access to a mobile laptop or a tablet. Here is a list of five digital tools that I thought any teacher could use in his/her class:

1. AnswerGarden – This is best for brainstorming activity where you ask one question and students answer in 20 words or less. To create an AnswerGarden, type a question, then share it with your class via a direct link to your AnswerGarden so that they can post their answers.

2. Tagxedo – turns your text into a word cloud with different shapes, which is perfect for visual learners. For example, you might ask them to list down synonyms of the word “love,” then turn these different words into a heart-shaped tag cloud!

3. Wordle – This is another word cloud-generating digital tool that is similar to Tagxedo, but without the shapes.

4. Padlet – This tool lets you build a wall for your students to post answers live in the classroom. This is perfect if you want to immediately gauge their writing skills as they post their answers in one sentence or two. All they have to do is double-tap on the wall and type in their answers, which everybody can read.

5. Popplet lite – This is a mind-mapping tool that allows students to sort out their ideas visually using texts, drawings, or photos. I am quite sure students would enjoy thinking about words or ideas that are associated with a certain concept and sorting them out using this app as compared to just using a traditional concept mapping template on a worksheet.

     So, whenever you’re ready to plan for the next school year, visit their websites to find out more details about how to use them in the classroom.

     Let’s all enjoy our Summer!

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