One website I find invaluable for sharing my students’ work is padlet.com. This site allows you to create a webpage with its own url. When students access this site, they just have to click on the background and they can upload their projects. They can share photos, videos, text, anything really. I used it today after my class created news report videos on Movenote. It is so simple and easy to use, and most importantly for time-starved teachers, fast. (And it embeds in wordpress: see below for my intermediate students’ padlet.) I have tried many ways of sharing our class projects, such as blogs, social media and moodle, but padlet is by far the most user friendly and quickest.
The language school where I work in London, Embassy English, has developed an approach to integrating technology into teaching called Bringing English to Life. Students use apps and websites, mainly on their own devices, that help them develop and document their language production. Students are given projects that not only focus on language being produced in the classroom, but also allow them to interact with people in the local community. These projects are then shared through class blogs and individual e-portfolios. Our school has developed a list of suggested projects and web 2.0 tools for us to use with our students. Last month we trialed some of these and fedback to other teachers in our monthly INSET session. Here are some of the ideas we shared. Thanks Luke Fletcher, Sarah Wakefield, Nathalie Barclay, Ella McCall, Melissa Threadgill, Jessica McDermott, Andy Navedo, Fiona Thomas, Kezzie Moynihan and Kallie Watters.
This site allows you to create animation videos and was used with Ella and Nathalie’s Pre Int students to create a list of cultural tips. The final products look amazing, but they were a bit tricky to set up, for example, you have to remember to slide times for when the animation appears.
Movenote allows you to record a video of yourself speaking to a slideshow created from images or powerpoint slides. Sarah used it with her students to create news programmes. They were really impressive. Students wrote news stories, then found pictures from google and saved them as jpegs to use in their slide show. When they started their news report, the theme tune from BBC news was played in the background by opening it up in youtube in a separate tab. Other teachers, like Luke, have also used Movenote but said they had trouble when they had their students use the free apps on their phones, so it was better to use laptops. (Note: only computers with webcams will work.) I have also used it to encourage spontaneous speaking by having a pre-made powerpoint slideshow (e.g. a day in the life in London) and having students record themselves describing what they see as they see each image for the first time.
This is my go-to site. Students can write a dialogue and turn it into an animated film. It’s really easy to use and it works with all levels. I usually set it up as a way to revise vocabulary. First I give students only 3 minutes to work in pairs to write a 6-line dialogue incorporating a new expression. Then I stop them and say they are going to turn their dialogue into a film and we do an example together as a class. Then they work in pairs to create their own films. They have to collaborate to choose setting, characters, background music etc. They email me the films and we watch them together in class. I usually get the other students to notice the key lexis and also if there is anything they would change about what they read (i.e. correct any mistakes).
Using a Class Blog
A few of us have blogs with our students and we were discussing some of the best ways to make it work. I mainly moderate my class blog and add students as contributors. Jessica has made hers much more student-led, with one student in charge each week. All students don’t have full access as administrators, but take turns. They don’t post everything they do, but when they have a project, the class will vote for the best one and that one will get to be put on the blog. For example, when they did class presentations, they were recorded on their phones and then the best one was put on their blog.
An issue I’ve had with my class blogs are how to give meaningful feedback. One suggestion was to corrects students’ work in draft mode before they are posted to the blog for everyone to see.
This is a good site to add text, sound and video to an image. It’s worked really well for me with low levels. For example, to learn vocabulary for things in the house, students can take a picture of their flat and label everything. Or for vocabulary about shops, students went out and took photos of shops where they could buy specific things and recorded themselves having a transactional conversation about these. Some advice about Thinglink from Jessica: it seems to work better in Firefox than Explorer. You can now set up a teacher’s account and link your youtube account to upload videos and Soundcloud to upload recordings.
Future Me (Fiona)
This website could be used to get students to write a letter to themselves in the future. It could be interesting to do at the beginning of the course so they can see how much they improved by the end.
Newspaper Stories, Speed Dating Style (Andy)
Students are each given a news story. They take notes on it and then have to tell their story to a classmate. They take notes and then tell a new classmate the new story they have just heard. This continues until everyone has listened to and told every story. It’s funny at the end to compare the story to the original as a whole class because the stories will have changed so much.
Using their phones
There are many ways students can use their phones without downloading apps or accessing websites. For example, Andy recommends that they record a role-play and then after transcribe and correct it. Or Kezzie recommends setting a weekend homework task for students to take a photo of some bit of new vocabulary. Students email these photos to their teacher and this creates a warmer for Monday morning.
Kallie presented a few ideas of how she takes students out when teaching IELTS. For Task 1 writing, students go to a supermarket and take photos of fruit and note where it’s exported from. Then they use this to create a graph. Fiona also suggested personalisation to create a Task 1 graph. She gets students to map their energy level during the day.
To get students to practise maps and process writing, first students have to write out instructions how to get to a local park. Another group writes instructions to a different park. Then the groups follow instructions and when they get to the park, they have to take a picture of a natural process. Their homework is to write up the task.
Also, to talk about changes in cities, Kallie gives students old pictures of London and they have to compare.
I found these ideas particularly interesting because I’d like to develop ways to incorporate more technology into my IELTS teaching, but in a meaningful way because I find students can be quite resistant because they don’t see its relevance to the exam.
Ones that didn’t work so well for us (at least this time…)
Melissa tried E-maze with her elementary class but it was very difficult for them. It was difficult to see on their phones, so she switched to laptops, but the amount of effort didn’t seem to warrant the final output. It might have worked with a higher level class or with students who are better at using computers.
I had a similar issue with Canva. I gave my students a homework task to write a question about wishes (our topic for the week) and interview at least three people on the street (for example, some choose their host families while others asked people in Trafalgar Square). Then they had to make a Canva poster and put it on our class blog. Some of them made the posters using Canva, while others just posted on the blog. I don’t think the effort it took for them to use Canva was worth it, as the posts on the blog were just as effective. The other problem I have with Canva is that there isn’t a way for them to go back and correct their mistakes, whereas they can edit their blog posts. They now have a beautiful poster, but one that is full of mistakes. This also brings up the issue whether it is better to set these tasks for homework or to work on them in class time. Working on them in class gives more opportunity for error correction, but it also takes away from time that could be spent learning other things. Some of the more successful projects took three to four days: one to set up and study the language, another to go out and interact with the community, a third to create the digital project in class and a fourth to present it.
Another issue that came up, was the need for a model. One of the reasons I think the Powtoons and Movenote projects worked so well is because the teachers had created a model themselves for students to see what is expected of them. It also meant that teachers were better able to assist their students in using the websites. The downside of this of course is the amount of extra prep time for the teacher.
This post actually started its life as a summary of talks after IATEFL 2014 Harrogate which I never got around to posting. Do other people do this too-start a post then never post it? Last year I actually had more unposted posts that I started and never published than ones I got around to finishing!
So anyway, with this year’s IATEFL fast approaching, I thought I’d look back and see which of last year’s talks have stuck with me and had an influence on my day-to-day teaching.
There were so many amazing ideas at IATEFL Harrogate; I kept meaning to go online and watch some of the sessions I had missed, but I never seemed to have the time, let alone find time to revisit my notes and websites for the ones I attended.
The three themes that have stuck in my mind this past year and influenced the way I teach are to try to incorporate more film clips into my lessons, think about how I teach listening and pronunciation, and to use more technology to improve my students’ speaking. Here is a summary of some of those talks and a collection of websites with useful resources from some of the ones I went to.
Using images and video clips
Probably the most practical session that I went to and one that I quite regularly incorporate into my lessons was on using short film clips from the website:
http://film-english.com/ by Kieran Donaghy.
This site has lots of short film clips and ready-made lessons. An absolute gem.
I always meant to try to incorporate memes into my teaching or start using readers with my classes after attending ‘Using Memes’ by Nina Jeroncic and a presentation by Black Cat on integrating film and readers, but somehow never got around to it.
Listening and pronunciation
My students often complain that listening in class is easy but as soon as they walk out of the classroom into London, they can’t understand anyone. Why is there such a discrepancy and what can we do as teachers to help them? I went to quite a few talks that addressed helping students understand authentic listenings and different pronunciations, and although I left inspired, I’m not sure it has translated into practical lesson activities or me being a better teacher of either listening or pron. I’m looking forward to hearing more at this year’s conference and exploring this area more. Websites of my favourites:
ELF Pron by Laura Patsko and Katy Davies
http://sandymillin.wordpress.com/ by Sandy Millin
http://speechinaction.com/ by Richard Cauldwell
Using technology to encourage speaking
I went to a few sessions where practicing teachers explained which technology they have used with their students to get them speaking and how well it worked. I’m not sure if I’m inspired to use any of the websites/apps with my students, but it is always interesting to share personal teaching experiences. This past year I have tried a few new apps but mainly relied on getting my students to record themselves in whatever built-in recorder they had on their phones. These sessions did though confirm the relevance of using technology to get students to make progress and build confidence in speaking. More importantly, like all of IATEFL, they provided a chance to share ideas with teachers from around the world, comparing contexts and experiences, sharing expertise, and developing and redefining best practice. Bring on IATEFL 2015!
This was a fabulous idea mentioned by Nicky Hockly in her talk at the IATEFL LAMSIG and LonDOSA event this weekend. It’s so simple and yet I can imagine so effective–I can’t wait to use it with my students.
Get your students to set their alarms (on their smart phones of course) for 4 o’clock, 6 o’clock and 8 o’clock. Then when their alarms go off, their homework is to take a selfie doing whatever it is they are doing at that time. The next day in class, look at these photos and start asking questions. Where were you? What were you doing at 4 o’clock? So simple, and yet so brilliant. Thanks Nicky!
A few weeks ago I posted about using Fotobabble in class. I really like this tool, but it left me wondering, whenever students create something, like a voice recording, what’s the best way to share it? Should we spend class time sharing? Should they get all their devices out and share in pairs? In small groups? How can everyone hear without headphones? Or should we put their work on the IWB individually for the whole class to see? That could be intimidating and take ages.
When I was looking into how to use Fotobabble, I came across the Tefltecher blog talking about sharing on something called Wallwisher. Well, Wallwisher must have become Padlet and Padlet is my new favourite web tool.
When I read that Padlet is an easy way to create a website to easily share things, I was skeptical. Easy?-yeah right! When is a website ever easy? Can this be real?! But, actually it is extremely easy to use.
Go to padlet.com, click on ‘build a wall’ and you’ve created a page that students can access and add to just by double clicking anywhere. Just give them the URL (website address). Really it is that simple.
I recently used it with students and I went a step further and gave the page a title, changed the background and made it password protected so only my students could access it and change it.
Check out my intermediate class’s Padlet .
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.
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. http://tefltecher.wordpress.com/2010/03/01/talking-photographs/
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. http://www.teachertrainingvideos.com/fotobabble/index.html
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.
Verdict: BYOD 1 – School Provided 0