Visual Thesaurus vs VisuWords

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Our district was recently offered a free trial of Visual Thesaurus.   This is an online tool that creates word webs for users.  It’s designed to generate a web of synonyms and antonyms for any word you type in, and provides the definitions and parts of speech for all words in the web.  You can click the speaker icon to hear the searched word, and you can click any word in the web to generate a new web for that word.

It reminds me of a similar tool I have used before called VisuWords, which is a free online resource that also generates synonym and antonym webs, although it calls itself an online graphical dictionary rather than a thesaurus, presumably since hovering over a word in the web pops its definition.  Color-coded dots and connectors denote the part of speech for each word, as well as the relationships of the words in the webs, such as “is a kind of,” “pertains to,” and “causes.”

If this is a type of tool you are interested in, you may want to take a look at my Comparison of these two Online Webbing Thesauri.   I’m sorry to say I do not know what the cost of a subscription to Visual Thesaurus is; interested parties must request a quote.  VisuWords, as I mentioned earlier, is free.


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Stop Bullying – Speak Up Comic Challenge

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October is National Anti-Bullying Awareness Month, and I’ve found a fun media literacy resource (provided by the Cartoon Network of all places!) to use with my students.  Their campaign is called Stop Bullying Speak Up, and it uses videos and games to raise awareness of the issue of bullying.

My 5th Grade classes will be taking the Stop Bullying Speak Up Comic Challenge this month by creating their own comic strips using BitStrips for Schools.

I introduced the topic to the students last week and we had a class discussion about bullying.  It turns out that some of our kids have already started their own anti-bullying after-school club, so this project was an instant hit with them.

At the end of class, I gave them a homework assignment for this week:  brainstorm some ideas for an anti-bullying message that you could use in a comic strip; figure out what characters you’ll need, what the characters will say, and what the setting will be; and put all of this information on paper to bring to your next Library class.  This week they’ll create an avatar to use, and by next week I hope they will complete their comics.

I’ll continue to share the ups and downs of the project here.  Anyone else using this resource with your students, or doing some other anti-bullying activity?

Update 10/20:  The kids have been having a blast with the Bitstrips tools this week, especially creating the characters for their comics.  Maybe I should start using my Comic avatar here!

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OmmWriter – When You Just Want to Think and Write

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A few weeks ago I was catching up on some older Clever Sheep podcasts, and Rodd Lucier mentioned a free download called OmmWriter.  Its purpose is to turn your computer into a Zen zone that allows you to focus your mind entirely on your writing, and after trying it I think it does a pretty good job.


OmmWriter takes over your desktop with a watercolor-ish background that blocks out everything else.  (The black control buttons disappear unless you hover over them with your mouse.)  You have a choice of four different fonts and font sizes, and you can drag the text box to make it larger or smaller.  The program offers you three soothing soundtracks to play while you write, or no music at all if you prefer.  There is a save option, or you can simply cut-and-paste your writing into a Word document, email, blog post, etc. 

Now, I am not New Agey at all, but I do love me some good relaxation music, so this feature is what convinced me to try OmmWriter.  (Track 3 is my favorite.)  It has not been as helpful in writing blog posts as I anticipated, mainly because I’m constantly referring to other writings and linking to various sites while I compose, and all the switching in and out of OmmWriter really harshes my mellow.  But for reflective writing – things like newsletter articles or letters to congressmen – it does help me keep my train of thought.

You’ve gotta love a site that lists their FMQs (Frequently Meditated Questions)!  If you decide to try it, let me know what you think.


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WWW – DropBox

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This Week’s WWW (Weekly Wednesday Website) is….DropBox!

DropBox is a free web tool that allows you to store your photos and videos online so that you have access to them from any computer anywhere! 

When you download Dropbox to your computer, you can drag-and-drop or copy-and-paste your photos and videos into your Dropbox file. 

You can also login to your Dropbox account from any computer or mobile device and view or upload photos and videos online. 

One of the best features of Dropbox is that you can create multiple folders to organize your content, and you can share those individual folders with friends, family, and colleagues.  Your invited guests can not only view your photos, they can also add their own, which will immediately be available to all other invited users!  Great for collaborating on projects!

Get more information from the Help CenterTake a Tour, or download now!


As always, a link to this week’s WWW is posted at, along with all of the previous WWW websites.


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New Recipe for Delicious

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This new Delicious interface is kind of freaking me out.  And not in a good way.


Below you can see what my bookmark page looks like now.  (Only they’re not bookmarks anymore; they’re links.)


Do you use Delicious?  What do you think?  ‘Cause it’s freaking me out. 

Especially that drawing.


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Book Box for Your Website

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I added a new widget to my blog last week.  It’s called Book Box, and it allows you to display any selection of books that you choose on any web page that accepts embed code. 


I like Book Box because there’s no registration necessary.  You just search for the books onscreen, click to add the ones you want to include, give your box a name, and enter a password.  Grab the resulting embed code, and you’re all set! 

You can edit the box at any time without having to change your embed code – your box is updated automatically!  You can create as many boxes as you like, with a different set of titles in each.


Clicking on a book in your Book Box display will take you to Amazon, and if you have an Amazon ID you can include it so that if anyone clicks through and purchases something, you will receive a percentage of the sale. 

(Note: I did not include an Amazon ID with my box.  From the developers:  “If you choose not to use this option and leave the field blank, we can use our own associate-id, and in this case if someone makes a purchase, we will get a few cents from Amazon, that we can use to offset the costs of hosting and further developing BookBox.”  I’m cool with that.)

I know there are other programs that allow you to display a bookshelf on your page, but for ease of use and customization, I think Book Box is hard to beat!

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