Saturday, May 28, 2011

That Library Thing

I am of the opinion that good English readers and writers are usually created and shaped by their perseverance with reading outside the classroom. I therefore advocate pleasure reading as both a reading and writing skill builder. 
A great online database for finding books to try, and sharing with other users your thoughts about what you've read is the website Library Thing. From the introductory notes about the site:

"LibraryThing is a cataloging and social networking site for book lovers.

LibraryThing helps you create a library-quality catalog of books: books you own, books you've read, books you'd like to read, books you've lent out ... whatever grouping you'd like.

Since everyone catalogs online, they also catalog together. You can contribute tags, ratings and reviews for a book, and Common Knowledge (facts about a book or author, like character names and awards), as well as participate in member forums or join the Early Reviewers program. Everyone gets the benefit of everyone else's work. LibraryThing connects people based on the books they share.

LibraryThing is a cataloging and social networking site for book lovers."

This free site may be just what you've been looking for for your next reading suggestion!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Spellchecking Caution

Spellchecker functions on Word and other word processing programs can seem appealing for their ease of use, but their reliability as often been through into question by students and teachers who are afterward stuck reading and editing nonsense!

This video by famous spoken-word artist and poet Taylor Mali gives a great example of "The The Impotence of Proofreading."

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Improving Readability of Your Website

I am one of many computer users who finds it very difficult to read texts on the computer. I often find that I print each article offline to be able to ever focus on the content of the words, and not on this jittery feeling my eyes get when reading information on the screen.

That said, I'm on a search to find a better solution than using a ream of paper for each course I take in graduate school. This article, "Eight Things You Can Do Now to Improve Online Readability" by Sara Dickenson Quinn for web site authors to use to improve the readability of their site. Maybe this can help CALL students to improve their odds of reading online.

In the spirit of learning...

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

COCA (The Corpus of Contemporary American English)

COCA is an amazing resource for determining the frequency of word usages within the modern American English context.

"The corpus contains more than 425 million words of text and is equally divided among spoken, fiction, popular magazines, newspapers, and academic texts. It includes 20 million words each year from 1990-2011 and the corpus is also updated once or twice a year (the most recent texts are from March 2011). Because of its design, it is perhaps the only corpus of English that is suitable for looking at current, ongoing changes in the language (see the 2011 article in Literary and Linguistic Computing). The interface allows you to search for exact words or phrases, wildcards, lemmas, part of speech, or any combinations of these.  You can search for surrounding words (collocates) within a ten-word window (e.g. all nouns somewhere near faint, all adjectives near woman, or all verbs near feelings), which often gives you good insight into the meaning and use of a word. 

The corpus also allows you to easily limit searches by frequency and compare the frequency of words, phrases, and grammatical constructions, in at least two main ways:
  • By genre: comparisons between spoken, fiction, popular magazines, newspapers, and academic, or even between sub-genres (or domains), such as movie scripts, sports magazines, newspaper editorial, or scientific journals
  • Over time: compare different years from 1990 to the present time
You can also easily carry out semantically-based queries of the corpus. For example, you can contrast and compare the collocates of two related words (little/small, democrats/republicans, men/women), to determine the difference in meaning or use between these words.  You can find the frequency and distribution of synonyms for nearly 60,000 words and also compare their  frequency in different genres, and also use these word lists as part of other queries. Finally, you can easily create your own lists of semantically-related words, and then use them directly as part of the query."

The site, part of the Brigham Young University Site, gives a five minute tutorial for additonal information about usinf this resource. CHECK IT OUT!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Diigo as a CALL resource

For helpful bookmarked links on CALL articles and webpages, I have created a Diigo account that allows me to comment on the site and provide an archive of useful links that I've found in my own CALL exploration. Hopefully you will find it helpful, as well.