Stop that eye twitch, it’s not misspelled. I’m talking Expresso – the writer’s style tool, not espresso (the writer’s coping tool).
Forging an honest, unique voice is one of the biggest struggles for many writers. Unfortunately, outside of a trusted editor, available tools can be noticeably lacking. Expresso is great because it admits upfront that style is more of an art than a science – all while providing specific, detailed data. With the ability to detect a whole list full of typical writing weak points (like passive voice or filler words) and specific grammar stats (like sentence length and reading level) it could provide a whole new perspective on tone and style. Hard data, editing style.
I’m passing along a list compiled by Richard Byrne of 5 video editing websites – Pixorial, WeVideo, PowToon, Wideo, and Weavly. That’s right, editing video in your web browser, which was nearly unheard of just a few years ago. The video tools Byrne highlights are easy to learn, some even using drag and drop features, and most of them are free. As video becomes more and more popular in writing classrooms, this list of video tools is incredibly valuable to teachers and students alike.
If you’re anything like us, you have many different things going on in life that you need to keep track of. As students, faculty, and active members of the community, it seems like there’s always something lined up on that “To Do” list. One crafty and helpful way to stay organized is through the free website, Trello.
Categorized into cards on boards—which, essentially, are simply lists—you can easily move tasks and items around, depending on when you need them done and what list you prefer. What sets this apart from just being a digital notebook is the fact that you can share boards with other people, making it an invaluable tool when working in a team or group situation. For example, if you’re organizing a fundraiser, you can create separate boards for keeping track of entertainment, food, and location. Within those boards, you can form lists on the cards, and then assign team members to certain tasks by adding their name and icon to that card. For a more detailed explanation, check out the video below.
Here on the WRAC Communications Team we use Trello to track web content and projects. We’re able to communicate about these projects with one another in a centralized location, while also sharing necessary documents. Whether it’s organizing events, coordinating team projects, or even keeping track of your own daily lists of things to be done, Trello has proved itself to be an excellent free resource to help you stay on top of things.
I’m a big fan of the backchannel and am always looking for more ways to incorporate it into my work, particularly as a way to generate instant feedback during presentations. I also imagine the backchannel as a valuable stream of feedback for classrooms too. The two tools featured here are TodaysMeet and PollEverywhere.
TodaysMeet works like a chat room – you create a room, choose a timeframe for how long the room stays open (two hours to one month), enter your name, then start chatting. The text box is limited to 140 characters, just like a tweet. TodaysMeet is very much intended for backchannel communication. They write on the About page, “Imagine you’re giving a presentation where you can read the mind of every person in the room. You’d have an amazing ability to adjust to your audience’s needs and emotions. That’s the backchannel.” How could you integrate this tool into your classroom space, across an assignment, during a workshop or presentation?
PollEverywhere approaches the backchannel a bit differently, identifying itself as an audience response system. First, it’s anonymous; there is no space to enter a name, which could generate interesting responses. Additionally, instead of creating a room like TodaysMeet, you pose a prompt or a question. PollEverywhere is also not bound by the 140 character limit. And probably the coolest feature of PollEverywhere is its mobile capabilities. Folks can respond to your prompt through text message, Twitter, smartphones, tablets, and computer – any web-enabled device. Keep in mind the free version of PollEverywhere limits your poll to 40 responses. This web tool is more robust than I have space for here, so I hope you take this as an invitation to explore integrating these free backchannel tools into your work.
VUVOX is a web based tool that allows you to take images, video, music, and text and create an interactive scrolling slideshow. I like to use VUVOX as an alternative to PowerPoint and Prezi because it offers a unique way of presenting information that’s not your typical set of slides. This platform also offers a different spin on the remix assignment in writing classes. And, of course, it’s free to use. Check out some examples, and imagine how you might use VUVOX yourself, or might encourage your students to use it.
Sumo Paint is a web based image editing website, a robust and FREE alternative to Photoshop, even allowing users to easily upload their own images to work on. This is one of my absolute most valuable online resources and I am so glad to be able to share it during this Week of Free here on the WRAC website!
Sumo Paint’s interface functions very much like Photoshop circa 1998, which is not a detractor, rather a bonus because it doesn’t get bogged down with all the bells and whistles of Photoshop. I use Sumo Paint when I’m on the go and need to quickly edit or create an image, and when I don’t have access to a computer with Photoshop. I can also imagine this being a fantastic resource for folks who are new to image editing software.
Sumo Paint interface – tools on the left, menu on the top, workspace in the middle, colors and layers on the right.
Last fall, I discovered a website called Songza, which advertises itself as audiences listening to “music curated by music experts.” Organized by playlists and genres, you can select whatever type of music you’re in the mood for based upon a few different factors.
For example, Songza allows you to select what time of day it is, and then what style of music you’re currently searching for—“Brand New Music,” “Enjoying the Morning,” or “Working (no lyrics),” to help pinpoint the best station for you at that specific moment in time. After that, it’s as easy as selecting the genre you feel like listening to, and then the site will start streaming your jams.
Alternatively, one of my favorite features is that you can also search for stations or playlists you’ve enjoyed before. One of my regulars is “Downtempo Instrumentals,” because it provides a nice blend of music that blocks out other noise as I work on campus or in a coffee shop. Similar to Spotify or Pandora, you can give a thumbs up or thumbs down to songs as they play, improving the station you’ve selected.
While you won’t find the Billboard’s Top 40 Hits on this site, it’s a great resource to use when you want some music to accompany your work, cooking, travel, or other activities. Happy listening!
Nowadays, it’s easy to find music streaming websites that allow you to listen to as much music as you want. You create a radio station of an artist and they’ll play that artist along with artists in the similar genre. What if you wanted a playlist specifically tailored to the artist or genre you were listening to? 8tracks allows users to create playlists for virtually every kind of mood, genre, and activity.
Tag lined as “Radio, rediscovered,” you can click on the genre characteristics you wish to hear or search any “mood, genre, or artist.” Upon creating a profile, you have the ability to create your own playlists or other 8tracks users to search, find, and listen to, as well as follow other users who have created custom playlists. On your homepage, 8tracks will display your listening history, liked mixes, mix feed (recent playlists created by the users you follow), recommendations based on your previous searches and listening history, featured playlists, top trending playlists, and newest. Playlists range in anything from top 40 mixes, classical listening, and party jams. Search around and see what you can find.