Sunday, November 21, 2010

now using the tool...

I've just added the app to my Travelling to England 2011 blog, you are welcome to come and visit ;-)

Firefox Text-to-Speech addon

Hi, guys,

HERE is the url with the voice addon Elizabeth suggested using today, in English.

Thank you for this new tool, Vance, very useful.

Ecological disaster in Hungary

This is something I was working on with my class - and ODIOGO seems to be best for scientific texts - so here it is, from the site Science in Action
The industrial plant which was the source of the Hungarian toxic sludge spill, reopened this week. Nine people died after caustic red mud burst through a reservoir wall in October, and devastated towns and rivers in the west of the country. But since the spill scientists and engineers have been studying the disaster, to figure out how bad things might be, and to prevent anything similar happening again. Professor Paul Younger, the Director of the Newcastle Institute for Research on Sustainability, in the UK, returned from a trip to Hungary last week and talked to Science in Action about how the clean-up is going.

A Few Silly Poems

Fuzzy Wuzzy was a bear.
Fuzzy Wuzzy had no hair.
Fuzzy Wuzzy wasn't fuzzy,
Was he?

As a rule, man is a fool.
When it's hot, he wants it cool.
When it's cool, he wants it hot,
Always wanting what is not.

High and Lifted Up, by Mike Krath

It was a windy day.
The mailman barely made it to the front door. When the door opened, Mrs. Pennington said, "hello", but, before she had a real chance to say "thank you", the mail blew out of the mailman's hands, into the house and the front door slammed in his face. Mrs. Pennington ran to pick up the mail.
"Oh my," she said.
Tommy was watching the shutters open and then shut, open and then shut.
"Mom," he said, "may I go outside?"
"Be careful," she said. "It's so windy today."
Tommy crawled down from the window-seat and ran to the door. He opened it with a bang. The wind blew fiercely and snatched the newly recovered mail from Mrs. Pennington's hands and blew it even further into the house.
"Oh my," she said again. Tommy ran outside and the door slammed shut.
Outside, yellow, gold, and red leaves were leaping from swaying trees, landing on the roof, jumping off the roof, and then chasing one another down the street in tiny whirlwinds of merriment.
Tommy watched in fascination.
"If I was a leaf, I would fly clear across the world," Tommy thought and then ran out into the yard among the swirl of colors.
Mrs. Pennington came to the front porch.
"Tommy, I have your jacket. Please put it on."
However, there was no Tommy in the front yard.
Tommy was a leaf. He was blowing down the street with the rest of his play-mates.
A maple leaf came close-by, touched him and moved ahead. Tommy met him shortly, brushed against him, and moved further ahead. They swirled around and around, hit cars and poles, flew up into the air and then down again.
< 2 >
"This is fun," Tommy thought.
The maple leaf blew in front of him. It was bright red with well-defined veins. The sun-light shone through it giving it a brilliance never before seen by a little boy's eyes.
"Where do you think we are going?" Tommy asked the leaf.
"Does it matter?" the leaf replied. "Have fun. Life is short."
"I beg to differ," an older leaf said suddenly coming beside them. "The journey may be short, but the end is the beginning."
Tommy pondered this the best a leaf could ponder.
"Where do we end up?"
"If the wind blows you in that direction," the old leaf said, "you will end up in the city dump."
"I don't want that," Tommy said.
"If you are blown in that direction, you will fly high into the air and see things that no leaf has seen before."
"Follow me to the city dump," the maple leaf said. "Most of my friends are there."
The wind blew Tommy and the maple leaf along. Tommy thought of his choices. He wanted to continue to play.
"Okay," Tommy said, "I will go with you to the dump."
The winds shifted and Tommy and the leaf were blown in the direction of the city dump.
The old leaf didn't follow. He was blown further down the block and suddenly lifted up high into the air.
"Hey," he called out, "the sights up here. They are spectacular. Come and see."
< 3 >
Tommy and the maple leaf ignored him.
"I see something. I see the dump." The old leaf cried out. "I see smoke. Come up here. I see fire."
"I see nothing," the maple leaf said.
Tommy saw the fence that surrounded the city dump. He was happy to be with his friend. They would have fun in the dump.
Suddenly, a car pulled up. It was Tommy's mom. Mrs. Pennington wasn't about to let her little boy run into the city dump.
"Not so fast," she said getting out of the car. "You are not allowed to play in there. Don't you see the smoke?"
Tommy watched the maple leaf blow against the wall and struggle to get over. He ran over to get it but was unable to reach it.
Mrs. Pennington walked over and took the leaf. She put it in her pocket.
"There," she said, "it will be safe until we get home."
Tommy smiled, ran to the car and got in. He rolled down the back window and looked up into the sky. He wondered where the old leaf had gone. Perhaps one day he would see what the old leaf had seen - perhaps.

Cathy and the House

At first Cathy liked her new house. It was large, spacious, and had a garden you could get lost in. The only thing that worried her was the house next door. There was something strange about it. Even when a strong wind was blowing, it seemed to be very still. Cathy used to tell her brother the house was covered in glass, so the wind never touched it. One day they decided to explore the house to see if the glass was there. Cathy was nervous and her brother went in front of her. Suddenly her brother stopped. He was pushing against a wall that Cathy could not see. “You silly boy”, she said. Her brother laughed and they both crept up to the edge of the garden. They saw nobody so they ran across the grass.

“Can you feel the wind?” Cathy asked. Her brother had to admit that he could not.

They reached the front door. Cathy crept along the wall to look in at the windows. The house was dark and empty. She came back to her brother. The air felt heavy. They could not move. They pushed the door. They felt something pull them through the open door. They could not do anything. They were lost in the darkness, held by it like by a huge hand.

When will Dennis from Os grow up?

When I was still teaching at Osnabrueck University, I went to visit young friends and their children near Karlsruhe. 8-year-old Gregory, a sociable child, took me to the park to show off his new bicycle and then asked me a question.

"You're at the university, aren't you?"
That's right, Greg.
" What are you going to do when you grow up?"

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Welcome to From Reading to Listening

This blog has been set up to activate an idea.  I discovered recently that English language colleagues were creating listening exercises for their students by recording themselves reading them, so I suggested they set up a blog with the readings and have them read by Odiogo.

To explain how this can happen, I've started a document outlining a presentation here:  The presentation will take place Sunday November 21, 2010 at 1300 GMT, in Elluminate, at

For this session, I have in mind setting up two blogs (for comparison purposes) and creating a tag for them whereby we apply the Writingmatrix principle that anyone can find each other's similar blogs, and show everyone how we can collaborate on setting these up so that we essentially create a set of podcast sites with beginning, intermediate, and advanced listening passages.

All interested teaching practitioners are welcome, but what we need from participants is for you to come prepared with at least one good story for a short listening passage. I'll add you as contributors to the two blogs and get you to post your story (as text) to this blog and/or email it to a Posterous one at And we'll see how each of these can be enabled with Odiogo to create the listening exercises that will benefit our students.

The last step will be to label our posts writingmatrix and fromreading2listening (see the "labels" for this blog post).  When readings are posted, we should set up additional tags for beginner, intermediate, and advanced, to distinguish the types of listening passages there are. The listening passages will be created in podcast format automatically when Odiogo renders our posts from text to speech.

If others around the world create similar blogs, they can tag their posts similarly to ours, and in theory we should be able to find one another's posts using blog searches such as Technorati, e.g.

So, be thinking of a story of particular use to second language learners (we can try out different languages ;-), and hope to see you online, or find out from you later if this might be of any benefit to you and your students (leave comments below if it is, thanks :-).