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Category Archives: Technology

iTDi + Shelly Terrell: Learning to go, webinar notes 1

At the beginning of March, I signed up for one of iTDi’s Advanced Teaching Skills Courses: Language Learning to Go, led by the brilliantissime Shelly Terrell, who is probably about as near to a living encyclopedia of apps, mobile learning, and the joys of Web 2.0-based learning as anyone’s ever seen.  Shelly and iTDi (International Teacher Development Institute) have set the course up on a private Google+ community (the course is not free, but for what you get out of it, it’s a steal at $50) and during the week the learners (me and about 30 other teachers in various places around the world) have “missions” to complete, consolidated by weekly webinars hosted by Shelly and iTDi faculty member Barbara Sakamoto.

Continuing with my experiment in sketchnoting, I’d like to share some of the tips and tools we learned about in the first weekly webinar. I have to admit I’m struggling to keep on top of teaching work, association volunteering, incoming projects and preparing for IATEFL Harrogate (in just one week!), so I’m a bit late with the notes. You’re all busy, busy teachers too, so you know what I mean!

Anyway, here are the notes–hope you get something out of them! (Disclaimer: I’m no artist, so apologies for the AWFUL drawing of Shelly–it looks absolutely nothing like her!) These are from the webinar back on March 9, 2014 but hopefully I’ll be able to catch up with the our “missions”! As you’ll see, we’ve already learned a lot in just the first week!

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I’ll try to catch up and post notes from the other webinars if possible!

I’m really enjoying the course and have already started using some apps with a group of my clients, who have agreed to be the guinea pigs for the experiment. After seeing how engaging it can be to learn as a group on the Google+ community, I’ve set up a private Google+ for a group of 5 A2-ish level learners. I’ve also started giving “missions” for learners to do on Audioboo to help them practice their speaking skills outside of class. They can then post their Audioboo recordings to the Google+ community and comment on each other’s work. The group has just started, so we’ll see how they take to it. I’ll be blogging about that project as well in the near future, hopefully to encourage other teachers to try setting up something similar with their learners if they want to try!

And while working together in a virtual learning environment (VLE) is just plain fun, it is also based on sound theory. Here are a few resources that Shelly shared to help us understand how VLEs take advantage of social learning theories:

Howard Rheingold’s Peeragogy and Co-learning theories

Siemen’s Connectivism Theory

Vygotsky’s Social Cognitive Theory

To be continued…

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IATEFL Liverpool: Nicky Hockly’s Mobile Literacy & ELT

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

QR codes

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. 

Q&A challenges

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.

  • Connectivity:

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

 

 

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IATEFL Liverpool: Lindsay Warwick’s Flipping the Classroom and Student Attitudes

Lindsay looked at the practical issue of getting unmotivated students to join your flipped classroom community. You know, those students who don’t do their homework and who just show up for class if you’re lucky.

She compared a traditional classroom and a flipped classroom to show how much time can be devoted to practicing language in a flipped classroom—about 45 minutes of an hour lesson. In a traditional lesson, that might only be about 25 minutes of an hour lesson. The rest of the time may be taken up with a warmer, homework review, and then time where the teacher presents the target structures. In a flipped classroom, the presentation part is done at home via video.

She came back to a situation that seemed to resonate with attendees—students who want to learn English, but who don’t want to put in the effort. Or those who think that just coming to class once a week is sufficient.

Like Steven she pointed out the benefits of flipping. Students involved in flipped classroom experiments in the US have said that they really learned how to learn. Research is now starting to come through to support the idea that test scores improved by 67% and student attitudes improved by 80%. The benefits particularly impacted students with learning difficulties or special needs.

Lindsay admitted that her first experiment in flipping failed. The students were unmotivated and didn’t know how to learn for themselves. Reflecting on this, she compared the differences between state schools to adult education when it comes to flipping the classroom and brought up some things to consider.

State schools

  • Weekly objectives
  • Online task/check notes
  • ‘Naughty students’ watch the videos in class
  • Teacher sets individual deadlines for students who still have difficulties. She pointed out that it’s important to let students fail so that they learn to overcome their failure and improve.

Adult education

  • Objectives per lesson rather than weekly objectives
  • Can it be patronizing to check learners’ notes and tasks?
  • Will some students just think watching videos is the easy life?
  • Will learners who don’t watch the videos withdraw from the groups?
  • Will learners feel patronized when the trainer sets individual deadlines for lagging learners?

Lindsay recommended being explicit about the objectives, explaining their relevance to learners’ lives, getting them to think about what they can do to achieve their goals, and informing them of the teacher’s/trainer’s expectations.

In her school, she also allowed students to choose between taking the final exam or finding some way to show that they have understood the lessons thanks to the videos. Offering students a choice can indeed increase their motivation, plus it also accommodates students who may not be good test-takers.

Lindsay also gave some clever tips for making students want to watch the video.

  • Send them something before the lesson, perhaps by email. This could be an email, a screenshot of a video, or a puzzle to solve. The students will find the answer in the video. She used an example in which she sent an email to a student
  • Videos need to be concise—5 to 10 minutes is sufficient.  Students often go back and watch the videos over and over again, so make them watcher-friendly.
  • Videos also need to be simple so that students can understand them. Surprisingly, students learned better when they watched videos that they felt were more confusing. Let me (or Lindsay rather) explain. Students who watched a video of a person simply talking and using correct target structures felt the video was clearer, yet on tests, they retained less. Students who watched a video of a native speaker and a non-native speaker talking (complete with communication breakdowns, corrections, and mini explanations) felt the video was more confusing, yet on tests, they retained more.

In flipping, it is important to spend time showing students how the whole system works. You’ll need to figuratively hold their hand at first and lead them to more flipped autonomy. Don’t just throw them into the system. It also takes practice to train them (and possibly yourself) to work in a flipped classroom. Getting into a good pattern is key to the success and it takes time to build new habits.

One issue is that the videos work better is they are personalized. However, this can mean a lot of extra work for the teacher if they have to create new videos for every class or every learner if your students are in 1-on-1 lessons.

This talk nicely complemented Steven’s. While he showed us the tools to flip, she showed us some things to think about to help us flip effectively. This does indeed sound like something to experiment with!

 

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IATEFL Liverpool: Steven Bukin’s The Flipped Classroom – From Theory to Practice

 Steven started off with references to a few resources to back up flipping the classroom: Jonathan Bergman’s Flip Your Classroom and the success of educator Salman Khan, who began by simply making educational videos for his nephew and has since gone on to speak around the world the Khan Academy that he created based on his success.

 According to Steven and his resources, flipping the classroom can help struggling students with poor outcomes as well as those whose schedules are so cram-packed with assignments from all of their other teachers.

He advanced the controversial idea that much of what we do in class leads only to superficial learning. By flipping the classroom, we can help deeper learning take place within our students. I suppose that if flipped learning gives learners the chance to access our classes multiple times (rather than in a single session) and via a medium that they call their own, he’s not entirely wrong.

‘Flipped classrooms’ are one of those trendy terms at this year’s talk. I didn’t know exactly what a flipped classroom was, I must admit, but found out at the talk. You can find out (better than I could describe it) here.

Did you know that the most common model for classrooms today—a teacher working on the same thing at the same time with a big group of students–dates to the 19th century industrial revolution, when society needed similarly-trained workers? Flipping speaks the language of today’s students, and even today’s teachers (Russell Stannard’s www.teachertrainingvideos.com anyone?) Steven also reassured us that flipping is rather easy to do given the right tools and a bit of training.

Benefits of flipping

  • Continuous enrolment greatly benefits from flipping. New students can catch up on what’s been done without the teacher having to repeat the same lessons.
  • Flipping supports differentiation as students can go through the lesson as much as they need.
  • Flipping allows teachers to better support students in person in class rather than doing all the teaching and support in the class time slot.
  • Flipping provides ready-made review and consolidation as well as being student-centered because the students take responsibility for their learning.

Some tools for flipping your classroom

Paid tools

Steven’s talk was one of the short 30-minute sessions, as it was paired with Lindsay Warwick’s talk which looked at flipped classrooms and their impact on motivation. This meant that Steven had to flip through the slides on various resources available for flipping the classroom, but here’s the list that is a good starting point for further exploration.

Paid tools

 Knowing that teachers always prefer freebies, we didn’t spend much time on these two.

Free tools

• Jing: free, web-based screen-capture , 5 min. per video, no webcam

Screencastomatic: free, web-based, with a webcam

Brainshark: free, web-based, 100mb limit, easy to use, upload many document types, no webcam

Present.me: 15-minute limit, 3 free videos per month, upload a power point to go with the webcam presentation

Apps for flipping

Educreations: This free app is like the modern version of the etch-a-sketch. It’s multi-platform, meaning it is usable on a computer or on an iPad, for example. You can record the audio and write at the same time, then save the files and share them with students.

 Explain everything: an incredibly powerful iPad app for creating visually interesting and animated lessons. You can cut and paste pics, manipulate and move them around for a fun lesson. Steven also suggested getting students to create lessons to share with their classmates.

He ended by saying that the video itself is not the important thing. What’s important is the time you free up for real interaction and connectivized (which I just invented—it’s as in connectivism– to avoid “connected” and its tech connotations) learning inside the classroom.

Steven also pointed out that a flipped classroom does seem to lead to better retention. The student can watch the video the night before the lesson, which gives more time to mull over the lesson and reflect on it. By slowing down the learning, it helps to speed up the acquisition.

Yes, it will take a time investment on the part of the teacher, but the return on investment looks promising.

 

 

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IATEFL Liverpool: Steven Bukin’s The Flipped Classroom – From Theory to Practice in ELT

Steven started off with references to a few resources to back up flipping the classroom: Jonathan Bergman’s Flip Your Classroom and the success of educator Salman Khan, who began by simply making educational videos for his nephew and has since gone on to speak around the world the Khan Academy that he created based on his success.

According to Steven and his resources, flipping the classroom can help struggling students with poor outcomes as well as overscheduled students who may have too many assignments.  He advanced the controversial idea that much of what we do in class leads only to superficial learning. By flipping the classroom, we can help deeper learning take place within our students.

‘Flipped classrooms’ are one of those buzz words of the moment. I didn’t know exactly what a flipped classroom was. I found out at the talk.

Did you know that the most common model for classrooms today—a teacher working on the same thing at the same time with a big group of students–dates to the 19th century industrial revolution, when society needed similarly-trained workers? Flipping speaks the language of today’s students, and even today’s teachers (Russell Stannard’s www.teachertrainingvideos.com anyone?) Steven also reassured us that flipping is rather easy to do given the right tools and a bit of training.

Benefits of flipping

Continuous enrolment greatly benefits from flipping. New students can catch up on what’s been done without the teacher having to repeat the same lessons.

Flipping  supports differentiation as students can go through the lesson as much as they need.

Flipping  allows teachers to better support students in person in class rather than doing all the teaching and support in the class time slot.

Flipping provides ready-made review and consolidation as well as being student-centered because the students take responsibility for their learning.

Paid tools

  • Snagit
  • Camstasia

Free tools

  • Jing: free, web-based screen-capture , 5 min. per video, no webcam
  • Screencastomatic: free, web-based, with a webcam
  • Brainshark: free, web-based, 100mb limit, easy to use, upload many document types, no webcam
  • Present.me: 15-minute limit, 3 free videos per month, upload a power point to go with the webcam presentation

Flipping apps

Educreations: This free app is like the modern version of the etch-a-sketch. It’s multi-platform, meaning it is usable on a computer or on an iPad, for example. You can record the audio and write at the same time, then save the files and share them with students.

Explain everything: an incredibly powerful iPad app for creating visually interesting and animated lessons. You can cut and paste pics, manipulate and move them around for a fun lesson. Steven also suggested getting students to create lessons to share with their classmates.

He ended by saying that the video itself is not the important thing. What’s important is the time you free up for real interaction and connectivized (which I just invented—it’s as in connectivism– to avoid “connected” and its tech connotations) learning inside the classroom.

Also, he pointed out that it does seem to lead to better retention. The student can watch the video the night before the lesson, which gives more time to mull over the lesson and reflect on it. By slowing down the learning, it helps to speed up the acquisition. Yes, it will take a time investment on the part of the teacher, but the return on investment looks promising.

 

ELT audio resources: a long (but surely incomplete) list

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Courtesy of ELTpics

Learners need lots of listening practice, no doubt about that. Practice makes perfect as they say, so the logic follows that the more learners are exposed to aural input, the better they’ll get at understanding it. Not just any input though.

I’m always surprised how, during our needs analysis and discussion of how learners can help themselves improve their listening skills, lower-level groups suggest that they can just watch CNN and the BBC outside of class and expect to become fluent listeners. Perhaps it can help their ear become accustomed to the sounds and rhythm of the English language, but it won’t be at that i+1 level so dear to our friend Krashen.

Fortunately, there’s a whole bounty of readily-accessible, mostly free listening resources for our learners available on the web. Some of them are even graded for appropriate levels or have exercises that make otherwise difficult audio extracts more accessible to lower levels. You know, grade the task, not the text.

The authentic listening extract project is well under way (and the call is still out for volunteers to record short, semi-authentic extracts!! Contact me!!), but  in the meantime, here are a list of online audio resources that I’ve managed to compile over the years.

And please feel free to add your own golden listening nuggets. My list is surely just a drop in the online aural ocean!

Business listening sites:

  • http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/english-for-business A British Council website with many audio extracts for meetings, negotiating, and socializing situations. Although they are meant as teacher resources (complete with lesson plans), students could also do the accompanying worksheets alone and bring them to class. Possibly good preparation for role-plays.
  • http://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/en/business-and-work Another British Council creation, but this time specifically aimed at learners. Includes two audio sections: “Professionals Podcasts” and a video series called “You’re Hired.” I like the podcasts because business learners get English and business advice from them. The activities can all be done online or the downloaded (MP3 audio file + worksheets). For higher (B2 and up) levels.
  • http://www.ted.com Not specifically geared towards business professionals, but ther are so many fascinating talks on various topics that can directly or indirectly link to many professional contexts. These talks are all under the Creative Commons license so can be used freely so long as you cite where they came from.  Talks vary in length and difficulty but do not provide ready-made activities. Many videos do include the transcript and sometimes even the possibility of adding subtitles in various foreign languages.
  • http://www.businessenglishonline.net/resources/podcasts/ The companion site to the Macmillan course book series The Business. It includes 21 podcasts (5 of which refer to articles in the course books though) graded by level on some basic topics such as working in various countries. Downloadable worksheets (though no key) and a transcript are provided to allow students to work (semi-) autonomously.

General listening sites:

  • http://storycorps.org/listen/ One of my favorite sites. It has real interviews done by real people, about their lives and people who have influenced them. Most students love these. If you click on the transcripts, you can follow along or check that you’ve understood after listening. You can also subscribe to their podcasts. Great authentic listening for more advanced levels.
  • http://www.manythings.org/listen/ Listening site specifically designed for English learners. Each audio has 3 panes: one on the left for words coming, one in the middle for the part being read, and one on the right for words already read. Learners listen and follow the text on screen. Mostly for lower level students.
  • http://breakingnewsenglish.com One of Sean Banville’s eight very thorough sites (does this guy ever sleep?!) that has short, downloadable audio files plus all the activities you need to go with it. Students can work through most parts of the lessons autonomously because all the answers are provided at the end, but of course, they could also bring their work to class for you to look at together.
  • http://spotlightradio.net/listen/ This site has a large number of interesting articles that also have audio files that can be listened to online or downloaded. You can also leave comments at the bottom of the article and print the script to read to check your listening comprehension.
  • http://www1.voanews.com/english/news/ Voices of America offers excellent podcasts for ELT students. Learners can download them onto a mobile device and use them to make the most of those long, boring commutes!
  • http://edition.cnn.com/studentnews/index.html This site wasn’t designed for English learners, but is good for advanced levels. There is also a transcript you can use to follow the audio. It is updated every day with current content.

Accent-specific sites:

  • http://www.elllo.org Listening website of native speakers from around the world. Great because you can search by speaker’s country, level, topic, media (video or audio), or a combination of these. Includes lots of general and some business-related topics. There are even transcripts and some basic worksheets to boot.
  • http://www.dialectsarchive.com/ The International Dialects of English Archive. You can find extremely specific accents by selecting a speaker’s continent then country. Sometimes the speaker’s region, sex, age, race, educational background, and linguistic background are even given. Each speaker reads a text and then speaks more spontaneously about themselves for a few minutes. There is only this “raw material” but my students have said they enjoy just listening and following along with the transcripts provided to hear how certain accents pronounce things.

“For fun” listening sites:

  • http://languagecaster.com/ For football fans only! This site offers authentic-language football-themed podcasts accompanied by free worksheets and a transcript of the audio. Each podcast lasts 10-15 minutes and follows the same format so learners become familiar with it. Although it is authentic, lower levels can still use this site by listening to short extracts of each podcast or by following with the transcript.
  • http://www.lyricstraining.com/index.php A fun site to help you understand popular English-language songs. Students listen to the song and watch the video, which has a fill-in-the-blank activity. The songs are divided into category of difficulty and you can then choose if you want a text with 10%, 25%, or all of the words missing. You can even create an account to compete with other learners around the world.

Short extracts:

  • http://www.listenaminute.com/ 1-minute audio extracts on a wide variety of themes. Each extract has a transcript and several activities that learners can do and bring to class to check with the teacher. Another Sean Banville creation and the activities follow roughly the same format as BreakingNewsEnglish, but in a shorter version. Great for busy learners!

 

 Any additions? Please feel free to add to the list!

 
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Posted by on March 20, 2013 in Technology

 

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