Last week I used fotobabble with my intermediate class for the first time.

If you don’t know what it is, it’s a website (or app) that allows you to upload a photo and then record yourself speaking about it.   After, you can share your ‘fotobabble’ through email, facebook, blogs, etc.

Laura Embassy’s Fotobabble.

We were describing people that were important to us and so my students’ assignment was to upload a photo of such person and record themselves talking about them.  They really loved it and put together some really nice fotobabbles.

I have to admit, I did have one problem with it, however, and that’s that we couldn’t get the app to work on our mobile phones very well.  We were able to record everything, but had trouble uploading it to share.  We never did get the app to work so we did everything online.  The website is really straightforward and easy to use.  On the plus side, when I was googling solutions, I came across the wonderful blog Tefltecher and this post on using fotobabble.

And just today (13 Feb), two weeks after I first posted this, I found this video that Russell Standard posted on his wonderful teacher training videos site.


BYOD versus School-Provided Technology, Part 1

It seems to be all about BYOD (bring your own device) these days.  Which is a good thing since at our school we have lost access to the computer lab and there’s no investment in any new technology (like i-pads).  But is BYOD better?  Are there certain activities that work better (or not as well) when students use their own phones or tablets? It’s something I’ve been wondering recently and so I’d like to reflect on activities I use frequently in my classes that require a bit of tech.

Activity:  Students record themselves speaking

This is something I do in my classes for various reasons.  For example, with my IELTS students I get them to record themselves doing a Part 2 task.  Or with my general English students, they record themselves telling a short anecdote.  Sometimes our focus is listening again to notice and correct errors; other times it’s to develop fluency and confidence by recording themselves multiple times.

In the past we used to use a class set of digital recorders, but over time the set has somehow slowly gone missing.  I started (maybe about a year or two ago) by bringing in the recorders and offering the students a choice–record on their phones or with the digital recorders.  Fewer and fewer students were choosing the recorders and eventually they never were.  So now I don’t even give them a choice.  They all have smart phones.  (If not, they could work with a classmate who does, but I haven’t encountered that yet.)  I’ve noticed a change as we’ve transitioned into BYOD that these activities have become more successful and students have enjoyed them more.

At first they hate recording themselves.  And I mean HATE.  Hate hearing their own voice, hate the embarrassment of it, hate it all.  And I understand–I hate my own voice, too.  But then they really get into it.  They realise everyone is shy and embarrassed, and so end up having a laugh.  I have them work in pairs so they can help each other (with both the technology and feedback) and are actually speaking to someone else.  By recording themselves, they have a record of what they’ve achieved and feel like they are making progress.  And by doing this on their own phones, they keep this record and can go back to it at any time (or delete it, of course).  It’s theirs.  Theirs to be used for their own development and reflection, not as a presentation tool or something that could be used by somebody else for some unknown future purpose.  Theirs to share with others if they want to.  And most importantly (for a lazy teacher like me), it’s theirs.  If they want me to listen and help, of course I will; but it’s on their own device and so there’s no extra feedback (like marking for writing) expected.  So students develop speaking skills, confidence and learner-autonomy while the teacher does little prep or marking.  Win-win!  There’s a sense of ownership which BYOD better achieves.

VerdictBYOD 1 – School Provided 0