Tech-i-ya 5.2

by Adrian A. Durlester

Adrian DurlesterWe’re back with another installment of software tips. Last time I recommended SnagIt from Techsmith as one of the best screen capture tools around. This time around, I’m writing about another program I hope many of you have already discovered.

There are lots of “flashcard” programs out there for the web, phones, and tablets. One of the most well-known and well-used is Quizlet, and if you’re looking for a simple digital flashcard program, Quizlet can foot the bill. However, I want to call to your attention a program that goes way beyond being a simple flashcard engine. That program is Zondle. Based on research into how people learn, and game theory, Zondle is a powerful engine to support student learning.

Zondle takes topics you enter (or allows you to use thousands of topics already entered by others) and allows learners to play games to learn and review the material. The folks behind Zondle, from the U.K., have really done their homework and have applied some serious neuroscience to the project. For example, they randomize how rewards are given—in other words, just answering a question correctly does not always result in game play. An element of chance is introduced which makes the reward unpredictbale, and , according to Zondle’s developers and the research they cite, maximizes learning and engagement.

Zondle allows teachers to create the topics but then empowers the students by offering dozens of different game options with which to study and review the topics. Zondle offers the ability to award students points (Zollars,) badges, and personalized “teacher goodies.” (For example, I use a “lunch with Mr. D” reward that requires a certain number of reward points.) Topics can be set up as true/false, multiple choice, or image multiple choice. You can add text, images, audio and video supplements to each question in a topic. For team play, you can import slides from Powerpoint, Keynote, GoogleSlides, etc. exported in *.jpg format. You can determine question order, or ask Zondle to randomize the order. For younger students, Zondle also has the ability to use phonics or spelling to enter/build answers. You can even use the Zondle Game designer to create your own games.

Zondle offers certain competitive/whole class devices like leaderboards, and two team play options—one simplified and one more complex. While each student has an individual account, and can play at home or elsewhere on that account, Zondle also allows you to create class views so that students can play (on at a time) directly from the teacher’s account, or you can enable an entire classroom of computer/tablets to automatically log in. This single/multiple class view mode also allows you to restrict what topics, games, and other parts of the whole Zondle website are accessible to students. This gives the teacher extremely fine control over what students can do on Zondle.

Of course, Zondle allows the teacher to easily monitor student progress. All the teachers in the same school can be linked to a school and easily share topics, students, etc. Yes, inputting Hebrew into Zondle, with and without nikkudot, is as simple as using cut and paste or Hebrew from your keyboard when enabled in your OS (I’ve even been able to use trope symbols and Yiddish characters as editable text, not just graphic images, as long as you’re using unicode fonts enabled for those characters. If that’s gobbledygook to you, ask your IT folks for help).

Zondle runs on the web, tablets, and phones using browsers and specialty apps. The premium Plus version of Zondle (which is currently free and in beta) adds assessment tools, school management tools, gradebooks, and the ability to embed Zondle in your school website. Zondle’s developers are constantly improving and adding to Zondle, and are very responsive to user feedback. The online help is comprehensive and user-friendly. Their stated policy is that Zondle will always be free for teachers and students. If you’re the pioneer at your school, be sure all the others teachers who later join you on Zondle to use the same school name.

In addition to online flashcards, there are also now many online apps using spaced repetition. Anki is my personal favorite, and plays very friendly with Hebrew (it was originally designed to teach Japanese—anki is the Japanese word for “commit to memory”). There are dozens of Hebrew card sets already available in Anki. Other spaced repetition software includes Mnemosyne and SuperMemo. Quizlet has grown over the years and now has a variety of study tools and engines that go beyond simple flashcards. Flashcards are certainly great for short-term memorization, and spaced repetition software theoretically improves upon both memory and retention, but I believe game-based programs like Zondle will likely prove to be superior learning tools for students. (The preponderance of flashcard and Anki sets designed to help college students prepare for MCATS or LSATs etc. testifies to their efficacy for short-term memorization. However, lots of people use these tools for language acquisition as well, and they are common in our Jewish schools, so they should not be discounted as useful. Quizlet is far more evolved than the dozens of other basic flashcards programs available on the net or as apps for phones and tablets. It’s worth a look.

If you use (or start using) Zondle, Quizlet, Anki or similar apps, please share your thoughts and experiences with me so I can pass them on to others.

Finally, this year, I started using the much-debated about Class Dojo to assist me with classroom management and tracking student participation and engagement, and I plan to write about it in a future Tech-i-ya. If you’ve used Class Dojo, I’d love to talk to you about your experiences.

You can reach me at: e-mail (Please note the new email address.) Twitter: @migdalorguy. I also blog and tweet as @yoeitzdrian and @havanashira. On Google+ I’m +AdrianDurlester.

That’s all for this edition of Tech-i-ya. I look forward to bringing you more useful websites, tools, apps, and technology ideas.

Adrian A. Durlester

Adrian A. Durlester is the Music Teacher at Solomon Schechter Day School of Greater Hartford, a technology geek and digital naturalized citizen, and the resident gadfly on JedLab.


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