Digital natives. mLearning. The connected classroom. These seem to be some of the hot buzzwords at this year’s IATEFL conference. I was thrilled to be able to attend a talk by Nicky Hockly, one of the founder’s of The Consultants-e, an online training and consultancy company. She started by telling us all sorts of information she found about Liverpool on the Uncyclopedia, a site for glaringly false information that is the exact antithesis to Wikipedia.
We started with a letter-by-letter dictation on our mobile phones: Whatdoyouuseyourmobilephonefor? Wheredoyouuseit? This could be a really fun way of practicing the alphabet as well as spelling, then getting a short discussion going with the answers to the questions. It can also help students build prediction skills. So, a little fun to get our brains going.
Nicky shared an infographic revealing that most people used phones for texting, taking photos, and internet browsing. Funnily, phoning didn’t even make the list! Most people also use the phone lying in bed, in the bathroom, in meetings or class, and while playing golf!
She then reminded us that mobile literacy means using mobile tech to communicate through the web. She added a quote by David Perry: “Teaching mobile literacy seems to me as crucial as teaching basic literacy;” Something to think about and its implications for our own practice.
We then tried another hands-on activity to get to know our neighbors and challenge us: open your photo album and find pictures of all of the following:
- a pet
- a grandparent, child, or parent
- a celebration
- a holiday photo
- a photo taken in nature
- a photo of you doing sport
This is a classic speaking activity, but one that can be modified in lots of different ways to suit your context.Think about different variations on this theme that could work with your students.
The SAMR model
When it comes to mobile technology, we have different levels of task type:
- Substitution: doing an activity with tech that could just as easily be done without
- Augmentation: doing a standard activity but to which the tech element adds something
- Modification: tech allows for significant task redesign
- Redefinition: tech allows us to create new tasks that previously weren’t possible
Nicky then flashed a QR code on a slide and invited us to flash it, get the instructions it then provided, and follow them. This was a really fun activity in fact, one that could be replicated in the classroom provided enough students have smartphones and have been told to download a QR code reader (Nicky recommends iNigma because it is incredibly efficient.)
You can easily create QR codes with Kaywa, which is available on the web. The QR code then leads to a URL, a bit of text, a phone number, or an SMS. For teachers, the link and text will probably be the most interesting options.
Nicky and audience members suggested using QR codes to do treasure hunts with clues in the form of QR codes pasted on the walls. She cautioned about over-using them though, which is sound advice for any tool or technique that we use in the classroom.
Augmented reality & geo-tagging
Augmenting reality means adding extra information to what’s available in the real world. She showed an example of taking a photo of the Sydney Opera House, which the phone recognizes and flashes information about the monument on the phone’s screen. This is great for visiting new cities.
She recommended Wikitude, which links to Wikipedia.
She also recommended Woices, which is a smartphone app. It figures out where you are through geotagging and it gives you a series of voice recordings with information about places in your surroundings.
Students and teachers can create their own recordings about a place. You simply click, record, save and pin it to a map on the phone. You don’t have to be near the place that you are recording about. You can also add tags to your recording to help people know the subject of your recording.
This takes the classic voice recording activity and puts it on this open-source platform. You can also upload the text that goes with the recording if you so desire. This can greatly motivate students to get it right because the recording is not simply going to sit on a hard drive.
Several audience members put forth their ideas on challenges we could meet when trying to integrate mLearning.
- Classroom management:
Students being distracted by other apps, such as Facebook. WIll they do what they’re supposed to do or will they just start surfing? This is a question of classroom managment. We must clearly structure the task and make sure the task is interesting enough to motivate them.
We must also build up interest in the subject. Taking the example of the Sydney Opera House, we wouldn’t just go in and say “OK, go to Woices and record something about the Opera House.” That’s rather boring and difficult to do. We would build up to the “project” of the lesson–the recording–just like we would build up to any other project. First introduce the subject, have students to a bit of research and learning, then at the end, use the technology as a tool for the lesson, not as the aim of the lesson.
- Platform compatibility:
Sme applications may be only iOS, only Android, or only computer-based. You’ll need to make sure that the apps you want to use are compatible with whatever devices your students may have.
Make sure that the school you’re working in has the wifi connection and the power to allow many students to connect simultaneously.
All in all, this talk was an excellent blend of practical information, a bit of rationale behind technology use, user-friendly demonstrations, and exchanges between Nicky and with the other audience members. Clearly, Nicky and the Consultants-e are the people to go to if you’re looking to develop your own digital literacy.
You can follow them on twitter: @TheConsultantsE or visit their website www.theconsultants-e.com