Blog 19: Nearpod – interactive presentations

If you are interested in giving a presentation and engaging your students at the same time without students having to join up for anything (like cahoot), then it’s really worthwhile to give nearpod a try.

nearpod

How did I find out about nearpod? Well, the tech expert, Howie Gordon, gave a wonderful and fun presentation at a teacher training retreat this summer. A really cute feature of nearpod is the drawing one. You can actually draw or sketch ideas and thoughts and they get uploaded to the main screen. Basically students are involved in real time interactions with the presentation.

There’s a resource of nearpod presentations on the site. You can upload entire power point presentations from your PC or google docs library and turn them into something interactive. Students access nearpod from their devices using a classroom code. Teachers control the slides when presenting, so it’s much better than just sending them a regular power point to their phone.

I’m a bit tecched out today so I can’t go into more details. But I really want to try nearpod this year.

 

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Blog 18: Education.microsoft.com- a treasure trove of educator resources

I was at a teaching conference and somebody mentioned this. So I wrote a note to myself to explore microsoft. We’re all so google oriented that we sometimes miss what is in front of our very eyes.

OK so there is soooo much on this site I could basically create 10 more blogs and only be scratching the surface…I mean, seriously.

Dig out your microsoft password because you’re going to need it. Once you go in

 

microsoft educator home

If you look at the tool bar you will see a lot of different categories, each one is a world unto itself. Skype in the classroom looks amazing, but you need a reliable internet connection (which we have not) in order for it to work.

I took a browse at the courses and some of them look totally great!

microsoft educator courses

I also looked at some of the lessons and of course, zoomed in on poetry and art. There is a great microsoft tool called microsft sway which makes beautiful presentations and is so much easier to use and with many more free options than padlet.

microsoft sway

I created a test presentation on the first lines of Macbeth’s ‘is this a dagger I see before me’ – professional, heh?

I’m going back here again soon, so be ready for updates.

Ella

Blog 17: Tellagami- simple but great

OK so I’m looking for an app that really explores higher order thinking. Maybe I’m crazy? How about them just doing some classic reading and analysis of a literary text. I’m coming to the conclusion that technology will not make students better analytical thinkers, or even allow them to master a subject. Sounds like a contradiction, doesn’t it. I mean, what’s this 30 day challenge about?

Well, we can’t IGNORE the technological world we live in. It’s there. We are immersed in this world from morning to night. So giving students access to technologies is basically readying them for the world that they already live in and will become productive members of, hopefully. So that sums it up. It’s not a replacement for anything (mind you, I do say that effective technology is better than a bad teacher).

To my point. I see that actually Tellagami could be used not just to promote oral skills, but also higher thinking skills. How does it work. Well it seems you just pick an avatar, pick a background, record your voice and have it speak for you. I sadly have not been able to use it as the app is only available on the apple store and I don’t feel comfortable downloading something to my phone from another source.

tellagami

This can be a great tool for digital storytelling. It takes away the self consciousness when students are told to present items to the class. It’s also great for practicing speaking.

A quick idea would be to create a tellagami character based on a character from one of our literary texts, and have him talk about himself. The options are endless.

There is one HUGE downside to the app is that it’s only available with i-phones. I looked for something similar on Android, and the pickings were thin.

The only thing similar I could find was iFunFace where you take a pre-existing picture, either of yourself or from the internet, and you create a funny speaking character from it. Also full of annoying adds and not what I was looking for.

The search continues.

Ella

 

Blog 16: A game that can teach students to think critically

Critical thinking is an absolutely crucial skill in our current era of fake news and ‘alternative truths’. We need to think long and hard about whether we are equipping our students with the tools they need to cipher the billions of bytes of information they encounter each day on the web.

There are some great sites that actually turn identifying fake news into a game. I think this online game could be incorporated into a whole unit of learning on fake news (of which there are plenty of lesson plans on the web).

One fun game I came across on my internet travels is factitious.

factitious

The game basically shows you short articles and you need to identify if they are real or fake. For English language learners this is great for teaching them to skim read for the general gist of an idea. Furthermore, they can explore WHY they decided the news was fake or real.

Sadly, the skills we are focusing on in school, despite attempts to rejuvenate and rethink education, are losing their relevance during times when opinions and views can be shaped by a person’s online feed. We are way behind. As learning materials use their relevance, we are in danger of raising a generation of children who are ill-equipped for a world of manipulations and downright lies.

Truth be told, fake news should be a compulsory subject in all schools.

That’s it for today,

Ella

Blog 15 (halfway there!!!): Kapwing: a simplified place for online video editing

Language is, as I’ve said, learned in chunks. It needs to be embedded in a broader context for it to be a)meaningful and b) useful for our students.

Technology can definitely help in this process (but so can extensive reading, probably to the same degree- just saying).

I have been looking for an easy way to edit, add subtitles to and mute videos for my classes, and so far, with all the technological progress we’ve made so far, I’ve fallen short.

Once upon a time, you had to BUY a video editor, but not there are some great free online tools, and you tube has even got in on the game. But trust me, it’s bloody complicated for a non-native like me. Kapwing has simplified video editing to such a ridiculous degree that even I can use it.

I have tried three kapwing features successfully. Firstly, adding subtitles.

Now you cankapwing subtitles

How can this feature help language acquisition? Well, some video clips are unclear, and having the English subtitles underneath can integrate listening and reading skills. But what about having students create their own subtitles for a 1 minute video? It means really, really listening to how natural language sounds and deciphering it. I think this is a very useful task to give kids to improve their listening skills (as long as they don’t cheat, that is)

The next feature I tried was muting and uploading my own audio file instead. I created a meme of a few seconds and recorded myself saying the same words and uploaded the file, converted it to MP3 and added it to the meme. I am not a great trimmer so it didn’t come out as well as I would have liked, but I suggest my students video editing skills are better. I’ve always dreamed of them doing a project where they add their own sound/change the dialogue to a short scene. It involves a trememdous amount of different skills and I think it’s great for working on their spoken language. Now I’ve finally figured out a way.

 

kapwing video with audio

The last thing was creating a meme. I’ve been talking about memes a lot in my blogs, because I feel we need to relate to how English is used to communicate in the 21st century. Well, you can create your own meme with text pretty painlessly on this site. I could ask students to create memes that explain new words that they’ve learned, or create a meme based on a movie or a series they love.

I have my husband, Avi to thank for finding me kapwing. I hope to use it again, or have my students use it in the near future.

Ella

Blog 14: Creative writing inspiration online

One of the things I force all my students to do is write. Writing is a process. It involves all the senses. It is complex, it is sometimes intimate and it is an ongoing project. We write to discover ourselves, and find that in wording a reality we make it our own.

I think the same rules of writing apply to language learners and mother-tongue speakers. The difference between the standard of their writing at the beginning and at the end of the year is incredible. But I’m tough and demand a lot.

Creative writing is always a fun endeavor for teens. They are at an age when they are trying to figure out who they are, who they want to become and how to interpret their reality. Creative writing is an exploration of infinite possibilities. It is honest, and its always about them (even if they have to imagine something that is not, it’s still connected to them).

Now, one might say that technology and creative writing are incompatible. We are in the world of the mind here, not the screen, you might say. I think, however, the resources for using the internet to improve ones creative writing are very helpful indeed. One site that can provide some imaginative writing prompts is tumblr. Tumblr has its own creative writing prompts ‘machine’ (what the hell do you call it, a feed?). I’m looking at it right now and feeling an itch to write.

writing prompts

presidential speech writing prompt

terrifying creature

Students can just keep on scrolling down until they find something good. It’s as simple as that.

Happy writing!

Ella

blog 13:Digital ways to bring vocabulary learning alive

As we know, looking up a word in an online dictionary does not give us anything close to the full picture. Odds on, if it just simply translated in order to understand the text, it will be rapidly forgotten.

So teachers have students learn words off by heart for vocabulary tests. Great, now they know how to translate it (in the context in which they learned it- otherwise it would be too overwhelming) but they still don’t know how to use it

So the teacher goes a step further, she says ‘Students, write sentences using the word.’ Well, that’s a broad instruction which can invite sentences like ‘He is a companion’- the sentence doesn’t reveal any knowledge or understanding of the word.

OK, so how else can we test knowledge? Cloze sentences where they pick the word which is appropriate within the context. The guessing game that still won’t allow the student to activate his knowledge but at least allows the word to be seen in an appropriate context. And so it goes on.

Technology can give us some imaginative ways for visualizing vocabulary. For example with wordle, synonyms appear in an image which helps us understand the word more deeply.

jubilant

Wordle automatically generated the words according to their frequency.

They can also see the word mapped out thanks to amazing apps such as visual thesaurus (not free, except 14 day trial) and graphwords

flabbergasted

All of these synonyms are links to further word maps. It’s also a great tool for creative writing.

Another way of them showing how well they’ve understood a word is finding a meme that appeals to them that reflects the meaning of the word. Let’s take the word ‘flabbergasted’- now.

totally flabbergasted cat

When I look at how memes are used so cleverly, I being to really feel my age. A meme, the combination of verbal and visual really is a new means of communication. Yet our students use memes instinctively. It is therefore very helpful to encourage student ownership of their knowledge by giving them meme projects. We really get to see a visual display of their understanding of a word. The plus is the word is embedded in a collocation (see here ‘totally flabbergasted’) which is a heck of a lot more useful than a vocabulary list.

How can they use memes – well, they can find the meme they most like to reflect a new word on sites such as the one I used above. Or they can create their own, using sites such as imageflip.com  to create something like this (I’m sure my students could do better):

Happy visualizing!

Ella
trump flabbergasted