Using Voki to Learn

This week I have decided to talk about Voki, which I believe is a great tool to help second language learners practice their oral skills. Often, students are very nervous about doing an oral presentation. Of course, they should have to do some presentations, but Voki can be another way the teachers assess the progress of their students, on the first competency, oral production. 

Voki allows you to create an avatar, that you can personnalize. You can then add dialogue for the avatar to speak. This can be shared via e-mail or on websites, for example. Here is the tutorial from Voki on how to create your avatar:

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FunBew6S4Bk

To me, Voki seems like a fun way to get students to talk in their second language. Since they are working on a computer, are being creative and are having fun at the same time, they are more likely to enjoy the activity and to fully participate. There are many ways to use Voki in the ESL classroom. Here are a few ways, suggested by EDtech.com, to use Voki in class ( http://edtechreview.in/news/337-use-of-voki-for-classroom):

  • using Voki for a debate can be a fun way to get students to give their opinion about a topic
  • students can practice their speech and listen to it to see how it really sounds (practice words they have trouble with)
  • they even suggests using it as a proofreading device for their written texts

Another interesting idea I found on the Voki blog by a guest blogger was to use Voki to create an avatar based on something they learned during class. For example, if the students learn about Martin Luther King, they could recreate one of his speeches in an avatar. This would be a great way to practice their oral skills while also learning historical things or any other important aspect in the world! (http://blog.voki.com/2013/07/11/guest-blogger-carmen-brettel-how-to-use-voki-in-the-classroom/).

Voki is a great tool that every teacher should use once in a while, I believe! It really gives students the opportunity to talk while using computers! Teachers could also use it to make their lessons more interesting, from time to time! To conclude, I recommend you take a look at this website, as it offers a very detailed ”How to” for Voki:

http://tccl.rit.albany.edu/knilt/index.php/Integrating_VOKI_in_the_Foreign_Language_Classroom

Transforming Your Classroom Into a Game Show!

In the last week of my practicum, I had the chance to observe my teacher do a revision about verbs with her students. Normally, this task should not be too interesting to students. However, it was. Why? Because she used Jeopardy Labs to create a template for a game that involved revising the verbs! I was surprised to see students participate so much in the revision. They were helping each other, high fiving each other and really wanted to win the game. I though this was a great way to teach since it involved a fun activity for the students.

Here’s how Jeopardy Labs works. When you go on their website (https://jeopardylabs.com/), you can choose to create your own jeopardy or to use one that’s already been made by someone else. Using the material you are supposed to cover in class, you can create questions related to it, with different categories and different number of points for different questions (just like the real game!). This website explains step by step how to create your jeopardy lab:

http://suefrantz.com/2011/08/09/jeopardy-labs-create-your-own-jeopardy-board/

The steps are pretty easy to follow and with just a little time, you will have your own quiz adapted to your students and to your material! You can also take a look at the following video, if you need help creating your template:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pcz4IaLWmVY

I believe this is a great way to make a revision, before an exam or after some difficult notions have been explained. The teacher can easily see if the notions were understood correctly or not! Students will have fun while doing what they are supposed to do…it really is the best of both worlds! 

When I first saw how it worked, I imagined it would mostly be used for revision, however, by reading a blog called Techy Things Teachers Should Try, I found out about some other interesting things to do. For example, it could be used to test knowledge of your students, prior to the lesson. Your lesson could then be really adapted to their level. Students could also be the creators of the quiz, as a project on which they could be evaluated. You can take a look at the blog here:

http://bryantechnology.blogspot.ca/2013/10/jeopardylabs.html

Whatever the level of your students, creating a game such as jeopardy is sure to entertain them!

Tweeting in class? Why not!

My first blog article was dedicated to the use of Facebook in the classroom. I recently started to think about how other social medias could be used to teach. Personally, I prefer Twitter to Facebook for mostly one reason: I think it’s a better way to share articles, interesting facts and news than Facebook. This is why I decided to explore how Twitter could be used in a classroom.

The first article I read was on teachhub.com. It allowed me to see a variety of ways how Twitter could be used in class. Whether it is for a teacher to keep his or her class informed of important dates, to find information about a particular topic, to live tweet an event or something else or simply to subscribe to interesting sources of information for students, Twitter will get students engaged in the task because it is via a media that will interest them. I recommend you take a look at the article, as it offers a wide variety of suggestions.

http://www.teachhub.com/50-ways-use-twitter-classroom

After I read this article, I came up with different ideas I could work with. For example, I could ask my students to watch a TV show and live tweet it their impression of it. I could ask them to find about some current event using hashtags and to repost the articles they liked most on their feed. I could have them tweeting with a classroom in an English speaking country (who are learning French for example). Also, I could ask them to tweet the answer to the questions I ask in class, as does this teacher:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2w9CnaeaiAE

Twitter can not only increase the class participation but it can also be used for assignments (such as live tweeting a show of their choice). Since keeping students interested while still learning what they are supposed to learn is every teacher’s challenge, I believe that bringing innovative ways such as this can really be a great thing!

I have mostly talked about how Twitter can be used with older students, but there are elementary grades teachers using Twitter with their students. One blogger who uses it mentions how they mostly tweet about what they are doing in class or the problems they solve in Mathematics for example. The teacher set up an account for her classroom and goes through all tweets but it seems to be a lot of fun for the children (http://learningandsharingwithmsl.blogspot.ca/2013/08/using-twitter-in-primary-classroom.html)

If you want to see how an elementary class Twitter looks, you can take a look at the following page:

https://twitter.com/mscassidysclass

These are only a few ways how Twitter can be used…the possibilities really are endless!

ScreenChomp: Bring the teacher home!

This week I have decided to talk about another great app. This app can be very useful for students who have trouble understanding their lessons the first time or who have trouble remembering what was said in class earlier!

ScreenChomp is a very easy to use app. It allows teachers to record what they draw on the board, with their iPad. However, it not only records what is drawn or written, it also records everything that is said while that lesson is being explained! Once the lesson is done, teachers can save it and a link is created on screenchomp.com, which can then be shared via Facebook, email or any other way! The following video shows how to use ScreenChomp:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5__7UMtHyS8

As you can see in the video, students can also be connected to each other to share problems they have a hard time understanding. I believe this could be a great way to promote collaboration between students and to create a positive atmosphere in the classroom.

If you’re unsure how the lesson presents itself to student, you can take a look at the following link, which is a lesson recorded and shared:

http://www.screenchomp.com/t/bogVMQkXmtrN

I believe this application is another step towards making sure we give students all necessary tools to succeed. If students have access to what was said in class and to help from their peers, there is a lot more they can do at home to make sure their homework is done correctly. It also helps students with learning difficulties, such as attention deficit disorder. They can replay their lessons in their own time while trying to pay attention. I believe everyone wins in this situation! It’s no wonder ScreenChomp was voted as one of the 15 favorite iPad apps for teachers on the Emerging Ed Tech website (http://www.emergingedtech.com/2012/03/15-favorite-ipad-apps-as-selected-by-teachers/).

Bonus points: ScreenChomp is a free application! It is also very easy to use, but if you’re unsure about anything, I recommend you take a look at dummies.com’s tutorial on ScreenChomp:

http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/create-educational-screencasts-with-screenchomp-ip.navId-816039.html

I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised to find out there was a ”iPad in Education for Dummies” book. It might be worth a look!

Teaching with the iPad

I have talked about an app that can be used for teaching English as a second language a few weeks back. However, this week, I will talk about the iPad as a whole and how wonderful it can be to have such an ally for an ESL teacher. 

There are probably a thousand ways teachers can use the iPad! Whether it is for their lesson preparations, grading or for the the students to use, I believe everyone will find something useful! There are countless applications for the iPad. Whatever the age of the students, you can find an application that will be not only useful in your classroom, but also interesting to them. For us, future teachers of English, we can find apps for grammar, sentence construction and many more! I recommend ”Kathy Schrock’s guide to everything” if you want to find great apps! 

http://www.schrockguide.net/ipads-in-the-classroom.html

One thing to remember is that the iPad in itself is not a classroom. It should be used as a support tool for teaching activities and not be overly used. Students and teachers give their opinion on the iPad on this very interesting video on interactioneducation.com:

http://www.interactioneducation.com/ipadsineducation.html

For example, I am currently doing my first practicum and the teacher will use iPads with her students. They are filming a documentary and editing it with the iPad. Students are really excited about this activity and so is the teacher. Not only will her students learn English and practice it while filming, but they also greatly enjoy it. Isn’t this every teacher’s dream?

Of course, there are precautions to take when using the iPads with students. As we have seen in class, Mr. Miller mentioned how we have to make sure to block certain access to students (so iPads aren’t locked for example). He also mentioned how teachers need to make sure that their students use the iPad for the class’ purposes and listen to the teacher when they’re supposed to. However, I believe that with simple rules, using the iPad will be great! For those of you with doubts, I suggest you read this article on National Geographic on how the iPads can help students. Even if it’s not for scientific concepts, they certainly can help language learners, in other ways!

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/12/131210-ipad-learning-education-space-science/

Finally, I recommend you take a look at Berkeley’s FAQ if you have any problems using you iPad in class (with your smart board, for example). 

https://ets.berkeley.edu/help/using-apple-ipad-classroom

How to use YouTube with students!

It is easy to forget that there are great things we can find on YouTube. The large amount of dogs and cats videos and other uninteresting videos of the sort can sometimes give a bad impression of YouTube. However, there are also some very interesting things that we can use to teach students!

I started looking into YouTube a few weeks ago. I give an initiation to English to kindergarten kids in an elementary school and I was looking for songs to play. For example, I found a great song to help them learn the days of the week and a funny video to help them with the weather vocabulary.

Then, I figured there must be other useful things YouTube can offer! Firstly, I recommend to take a look at the following video, as it offers basic information on how to find things on YouTube and how to manage the videos that you find useful for your classes or for other teachers:

http://www.edutopia.org/youtube-teaching-video

Of course, YouTube can be used to show videos related to the material you’re teaching in class. It can help to use a video to demonstrate something (for example, a song with younger kids). Also, older students can use YouTube to research information for a project they are doing. Edudemic has an interesting article, ”The Teacher’s guide To Using YouTube In The Classroom”. They offer many ways it is helpful. For example, they suggest using it to make videos to help students revise their material before an exam. I hadn’t thought about that and I believe this could be very useful for students! (http://www.edudemic.com/youtube-in-classroom/)

Evidently, there are precautions to take when using YouTube in the classroom. For example, when giving students access to the website, we need to make sure they consult appropriate videos. I recommend reading ”Tips for Teachers Who Wish to Use YouTube in the Classroom”, as it will help with making sure it is used in an appropriate and efficient way! (http://edtechreview.in/news/611-tips-for-teachers-youtube-in-classroom)

Since YouTube has many education channels, I am sure every teacher can find something helpful!

Integrating the IPad in our classrooms

This week, I have decided to talk about a tool that can be used with younger students. As we all know, children nowadays are almost born Ipad in hand. They sometimes know how to use it more efficiently than their parents do. This is why I believe we can use this tool as a teaching device in our classroom, even with kids in elementary schools. The application I chose to talk about is Sentence Builder. 

This app is great to help students create sentences that are grammatically correct. It offers 2 levels but also offers the possibility of creating your own sentences, which is great for teachers trying to help students practice specific things that they have learned in class for example. 

A teacher, who writes the blog ”Learning to the core” tried it out with her students and they had fun while learning, which was of course her goal! You can read her blog here:

http://dailylearningtothecore.blogspot.ca/2013/01/lets-build-sentence-free-ipad-app.html

Since there are already 250 sentences constructed and you can also create you own, this app can be used many times without being too repetitive for the children! I believe that such an application can make it interesting for kids for many different reasons. Firstly, they are the ones constructing the sentences, which makes it a lot more interactive than traditional teaching on the board. Secondly, they use technology that most of them already know and already enjoy. Thirdly, it will look like a game to them but they will be learning about sentence construction at the same time. 

This app might be difficult to use with kids who are just starting to learn English, but if they start learning English at a young age, after a few years, this could be very useful to an ESL teacher. This app is also recommended by the website Fun Educational Apps (http://www.funeducationalapps.com/2012/10/sentence-builder-app-must-have-teaching-app-for-teachers-and-parents.html)

Finally, it is also interesting to mention that you can create accounts and see how the children progress in their learning. This way, teachers can see if the app works with their classes or not! Sentence Builder is recommended as one of the applications ESL teachers must have on many websites, as it won Language app of the year 2010, given by IEAR (http://www.bestcollegesonline.com/blog/2012/04/30/16-incredible-ipad-apps-for-esl-learners/)

You can take a look at this YouTube video to find out how to create sentences with Sentence Builder : 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bTjZ5yuTo6w

This one shows how Level 1 works:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LOyVNCVLW78

Connected classrooms: visiting the world from your school!

This week, I have decided to talk about a great tool that I discovered last week. It’s the Google Connected Classrooms tool that now offers virtual field trips.

Since technology is now a huge part of teaching, being able to show to students places they would not have been able to visit is a great opportunity. I believe that English as a second language teachers can use this application to help their students develop their language skills while also discovering something different.

First, let me explain exactly how this works. Google Connected Classrooms offers different tools for teachers. On their website, a variety of field trips are posted on a schedule http://connectedclassrooms.withgoogle.com/ . These field trips are called hangouts. Teachers can simply show the live presentation on a smartboard in their classroom to their students. However, they can also RSVP and try to be one of the 4 classrooms taken to be live participants to the field trip (a webcam is necessary), meaning that their students will have the chance to interact with the guide! Here is Google’s tutorial on how to use Hangouts: http://services.google.com/fh/files/misc/cc-faqforteachers.pdf

I believe this tool can be of great use to English as a second language teachers. As I have mentioned before, this could be a way to help students improve their language skills. Also, teachers can do follow-up activities on the field trip, for example a written assignment. I believe that this offers students the possibility to do something different, interesting and rewarding, while also being educative. The following link offers a video showing a little bit how the field trips go:

http://9to5google.com/2013/11/04/googles-new-connected-classrooms-program-takes-students-on-virtual-google-hangout-field-trips/

On another note, while researching information about this tool, I came across an article from Brian Fagioli on betanews.com who had doubts about the use of the virtual field trips. He brought up the fact that virtual field trips should not replace real field trips. While I agree that schools should offer students the possibility to discover the real world, I believe that real field trips are more complicated to do because of many reasons (budget, distance, time). With that in mind, I don’t see why it has to be one or the other…why not use Google to show students things they could not see on a real field trip? Hangouts offers opportunities they wouldn’t normally have! With that said, I recommend you read his article, as he brings interesting points: http://betanews.com/2013/11/04/google-connected-classrooms-children-are-denied-proper-field-trips/

Schoology: managing your teacher tasks!

Being a teacher involves a lot more than just talking in class and correcting exams. In order to be the best teacher possible, one has to be well organized. This is why I decided to present a tool created to help teachers manage everything that comes with being a teacher. This great tool is called Schoology. Officially called a ”Learning Management System”, Schoology offers many possibilities to the teacher. Messaging, calendars, cloud service, recording and grading tool are just a few of the things that can be used on Schoology. It also offers the possibility of communicating with students. https://www.schoology.com/home.php

The great thing about Schoology is that it’s free for teachers. There is a cost when schoolboards buy it, though. There was an article on forbes.com almost 2 years ago about Schoology. The author suggested how Schoology can be a great tool for a school. According to him, Schoology could really help the way school are managed. One example:

”Also on the horizon: a workload analysis tool to help teachers view students’ upcoming assignments and avoid cramming tests and due dates on the same day as their colleagues.”

This would definitely bring school to another level and help the students at the same time! http://www.forbes.com/sites/jjcolao/2012/04/16/with-education-at-a-tipping-point-schoology-scores-6-million-in-series-b/

This video explains how Schoology can help a teacher’s management :

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uqc1xE2H9Wg

Evidently, there are other types of platforms that can be used by teachers but Schoology is cleary interesting because it offers so much, all within the same tool. It is also very easy to use. If you need more proof that it is a great choice, the following link offer a blogger’s opinion about why Schoology is the best choice!

http://rtschuetz.blogspot.ca/2012/12/five-reasons-why-schoology-rocks.html

Using Facebook with students: Is it worth the risk?

Using social medias in school may scare some teachers, with good reason. Who hasn’t heard about students being not only bullied in school but also on social medias by their classmates. This has sometimes even led to horrible endings, such as suicide. Is Facebook, or any other social media for that matter, really this evil tool? Should teachers avoid using it as part of their teaching activities?

At this point, I’m not sure I can offer a simple answer. Whether a teacher uses Facebook in class or not, bullying will still take place on social medias. With that in my mind, maybe teachers can benefit from the advantages that Facebook has to offer. I believe this has to be done very carefully. An article on mashable.com, ”5 Best Practices For Educators on Facebook”, offers teachers some tips on how to make sure that they use Facebook cautiously (http://mashable.com/2011/12/05/educators-on-facebook/). For example, the writer suggests to use a group and to be careful with who you friend on Facebook. Our Computer Applications for ESL teaching, Mr Mark Miller has offered a similar opinion. In class, he mentioned how the use of Facebook with students should only be made via a group and that we should avoid friending students.

Facebook has many useful purposes for a teacher. Not only does it make it easier to communicate with their students, but it might also make it a little more interesting for them too. The website onlinecollege.com has published an article called ”100 Ways You Should Be Using Facebook in Your Classroom” (http://www.onlinecollege.org/2009/10/20/100-ways-you-should-be-using-facebook-in-your-classroom/). It offers many ways to use Facebook and many of them involve communication. If Facebook can help teachers share articles, information or anything else related to what they are teaching, then maybe using it isn’t such a bad thing, as long as it is done carefully! 

In the end, I believe that teachers can benefit greatly from the use of Facebook, as long as they are aware of the dangers of it and they plan it with careful consideration. As for the bullying aspect of social medias, the optimist in me now hopes that using Facebook groups and having to answer other students’ questions can create a more positive relationship between students! As Sarah Stewart mentions in her blog (http://sarah-stewart.blogspot.ca/2012/02/using-facebook-for-teaching-learning.html), students can help other students and they can grow a little closer because of that.

As a final word for teachers considering the use of Facebook, I offer this: Faceboook can be a great ally in your classroom, as long as you are aware of the dangers of it!