I'm finally done with this last two-month project, and have several things I've been saving that I thought I'd write about at some point.
SmartFM - This is a study website, mostly focusing on language. It started as iKnow!, put out by the Japanese education company, Cerego. It was exposed to a worldwide audience late last year, so much of the content is still in Japanese.
On one level, it's just another flashcard system, but there are some aspects I really like. As with several other sites, it has a social networking component. Most importantly, it includes a development API which lets developers expand its behavior. This is still pretty simple, but a good start.
This article on texting skills doesn't surprise me much. It's very interesting to see that people tend to change their texting habits depending on their audience. What the article doesn't say, but implies, is that texting has given rise to a new dialect, which is changing rapidly and in which younger people can code switch to more standard English without much difficulty.
It is also nice to see a refutation of the old canard that changes in language are a product of some horrible degeneration. (If so, I dread to think what Geoffrey Chaucer would think of the way we speak today.) I remember my college Russian language professor getting indignant over the fact that students of my generation did not know what a cold frame was. Of course, most students of my generation had never been exposed to a cold frame. (Growing up in New England, I had, which is why I was a little chagrined to have forgotten it at the time.)
Before my recent project, I hadn't really been giving much thought to classroom environments, but I like this description of an open learning environment. The idea that students can engage in different projects at their own level, and can even share very different insights into the same subject, as these kids did with the Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapse, is something that I think the web is well-designed to support in both a classroom and in continuing adult education.
I neglected to acknowledge one obvious source of up-to-date authentic content in language learning. There are now many podcasts available for a wide variety of languages. Since my recent project involved a great deal of commuting, I had an opportunity to sample several different Mandarin Chinese podcasts out there. I particularly liked the CLO courses. The Serge Melnyk podcasts include some very nice esoteric vocabulary (like Chinese baby-talk), though it relies on more translation than I like. While most of these are associated with commercial courses, the podcasts are free. I highly recommend these for anyone who is finding their language tapes and software to be a little stale.