[ChineseCUBES Inc. (212) 677-7018]
ChineseCUBES is a revolutionary approach to teaching Chinese (Mandarin) as a second language. The program is unique in that it uses Augmented Reality (AR) technology to provide a multisensory learning experience, enhancing perception with virtual content and animations (objects relayed through a webcam seemingly come to life on the computer screen).
The Starter Pack consists of 40 Chinese Character Cubes, 5 Tutor Cubes, a customized Webcam, Learning Pad, Writing Pad and Erasable Pen, Quickstart Guide, and Installation CD.
How does it all work? Basically, when the ChineseCUBES program is launched, the computer senses the USB-attached webcam and inputs the image of the character cube(s) placed on the learning pad. The simple and well-designed interface offers a Learning and Freestyle mode, while three large buttons activate critical functions: Speak (hear the phonetic sound), Translate (see its meaning), and Write (watch the sequence of strokes used to form the character).
Learning mode offers step by step instructions on which cube(s) to place on the pad as the user moves through each level, and an animated tutor, Fang Fang, sometimes appears to explain further usage of a word or phrase. Freestyle mode allows the user to randomly explore individual characters and combinations, and provides practice and review. The audio and visual elements are of high quality, and flexibility is key!
At the core of the ChineseCUBES language program are 200 of the most commonly used Chinese characters which can be combined to form over 64,000 words and conversational phrases. These are organized into 20 Themes containing 10 characters each, and lessons are sequential and can be completed in 15 minutes. Each character cube displays the character's Simplified form, Traditional form, Pinyin (phonetic sound), English translation, and an AR marker (reminiscent of a barcode!).
Although ChineseCUBES requires a high-end PC running Windows OS, a broadband connection for setup/registration/server, and a hard drive with enough free space to accommodate several gigabytes of information, the program offers an exciting approach to learning Chinese, and is very easy to use.
PD 360 (Website)
[School Improvement Network (866) 835-4185]
The PD 360 website is well designed, and offers invaluable educator resources in an intuitive setting. The user interface is divided into four sections - the header, the deck, the application toolbar, and the application content. A Knowledgebase section covers every detail of the website, from system requirements to video tutorials on using the PD 360 environment, video library, browsing and searching communities, the admin application, and web manuals/user guides.
Of note is the extensive Common Core section, which includes Introduction to the Common Core Standards Framework, Exploring the Common Core, and Common Core in the Classroom (in categories ELA, Math , and by Grade). The video segments are of very high quality, with excellent audio commentaries.
PD 360 is a BESSIE Awards winner in the category Teacher Tools: Educator Effectiveness System Website - well deserved!
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Teachscape Effectiveness Platform