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Tuesday
Dec282010

End of the year ‘spring’ cleaning

By Cameron Romney

One of my favorite Japanese New Year’s traditions is the end of the year cleaning. It’s a great way to review the year and get organized for the next one. My cleaning extends beyond just my house and office, but also to my computers. I make sure to back-up all of my files and reorganize and clean out all of the worksheets, handouts, homework, assignment, etc. that I created throughout the year. It is amazing to me just how much data I create in a year.

One of the big problems that I have with data is that I use more than one computer. I have a computer on my desk at work, one at home, a laptop and of course the computers in the various classrooms and computer labs that I teach in. The problem is keeping the data on all of these computers in sync. I’ve used all sorts of methods, emailing documents to myself, carrying around USB flash drives, but these solutions are not perfect. For example, if I make changes to a document at home then I have to email it back to work and keep track of which version is the latest. The big problem with USB flash drives is forgetting them. I can’t tell you how many times I have walked into class only to realize that I left the drive on my desk, or worse, at home.

This year I started using a cloud computing solution. Basically this means that any documents that I am using on more than one computer are stored both locally and ‘in the cloud’ on the internet. I am able to access these documents from any internet connected computer. I can then make changes and when I hit ‘save’ the document is updated on all of my computers. It has proven to be an excellent solution.
My first attempt at cloud computing was with an Apple Mobile Me account. There were some nice features, but I found the service to be quite slow. It took a long time to upload and update documents to the cloud. Currently, I am using the excellent Drop Box service. It is secure, easy to use, fast and the first 2 GBs of storage are free. I highly recommend it.

If you would like to try Drop Box, and see how much cloud computing can improve your work efficiency, you can get an extra 250 MBs of storage by signing up via a referral. Remember that accounts are free up to 2 GB and by using a referral you can increase your space. Click this link to create a Drop Box account today and get an extra 250 MBs of storage in the cloud.


Monday
Dec202010

World of Languages (Kotoba no Sekai he)

Have you ever wanted to study Swahili? How about Mayan? The National Museum of Ethnology is once again offering a series of 90 minute lectures about some of the world's lesser known languages (and some quite well known ones too). According to the Japan Times:

"Those who wish to take part need to be high school students and older and be able to read alphabets and understand explanations in Japanese. Thirty people per class will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis."

For more information and to make a reservation (in Japanese) please click HERE.

Friday
Dec172010

A good read

Marcos Benevides, an “English teacher in Japan, coursebook writer, ELT blogger, Creative Commons enthusiast” and former Osaka JALT member (former because he no longer lives in Osaka), posted a very interesting essay on his blog titled Grammar as cartography. He uses the analogy that studying grammar is like studying a map.

“…maps are not the landscape itself; they are a representation of that landscape. Likewise, grammar itself is not the language, but rather a way to describe language…”

It is a very interesting analogy and one that could be very helpful with students. Check out the post; it is well worth the read.