Latest Entries »

During my practicum with secondary 3 students, I assigned them an activity of song writing in teams of three and offered them to present their song either by singing in front of the class or by making a music video. My big surprise what was every team decided to make a video, even though it required more work. I understand that most of them weren’t comfortable with the idea of singing in front of the class, but I didn’t expect that they were that proficient with video technology and were interested in adding an extra value to their project by integrating videos effects, transitions, titles, etc. Also, they all have intelligent cell phone that can film in HD and some of them have standard video cameras.

After that experience, I’ve seen the student’s potential of creativity regarding videos and I told myself: What if they could be evaluated more often from videos? It is even easier to correct than oral presentation because we can watch them several times to be able to evaluate clearly.

As written in this article, using applications like iMovie with students strongly enhances motivation. I chose to write about iMovie because I am a Mac user and found out how great it is for students. I wrote previously about iPad apps in classroom and one other reason why I chose iMovie is that it is available on iPad, iPod Touch, iPhone and of course Mac computers. Apple present on this page the advantages of bringing iMovie to mobile devices. I am pretty sure that if you split students in teams of 3 or 4, at least of the team members has one of those devices. They can even film directly on those devices. That means that if they have those in class, you could have them make complete videos while staying in class! 

Teachers can also use iMovie to give lessons in class. It is a lot better than PowerPoint in terms of dynamism and it has the advantage to be accessible at home. It is easy to put a video on youtube that is available only for those who have the link. In other words, the video can be private for your students. This article explains that Youtube has become for students the first search engine for information. They can feel that their school lesson fits perfectly in their every day life. The link given above also gives others ideas for specific use of iMovie in classroom.

iMovie is super simple to use and provides a rich bank of soundtracks, video and sound effects and more. That makes the difference on a video and it makes it professional. Here are a few tutorial videos for using iMovie. 

I highly recommend using video software with students because I realized how much they enjoyed it and were good at it. iMovie is my pick for availability, quality and easiness, but other software can work just fine if you don’t like Apple Product.

(Here’s a funny video to convince you!) 

Cell phones in classroom

ImageWhile tablets and computers are becoming more popular for school application, cell phones are forbidden in most classrooms. Benoit Petit, (https://twitter.com/petitbenoit) a teacher that I’ve seen in conference asked the following question to the audience: What is the difference between tablets and (intelligent) cell phones? In fact, both devices are very similar. They provide access to the Internet, can take pictures, notes, calendar entries and much more with the apps. Another question he asked was: what are the pros and cons of using such devices in classroom. Surprisingly, both pros and cons columns happened to be the same. For example:

Pros:

Allow students to take picture/film (good for quick note taking)

Provide access to the Internet (easy way to get information and to communicate)

Cons:

Allow students to take picture/film (some teachers don’t want to be filmed)

Provide access to the Internet (can be a source of distraction)

 

Then, the teacher gave some counter arguments for the cons.

Allow students to take picture/film (some teachers don’t want to be filmed)

– Today, there are cameras everywhere: In schools, on the street, in public buildings. And pretty much every body has a cell phone outside of class and could film you whenever they want. It is a new reality and accepting that could be a good improvement for classroom. Students could film an important passage in class that they could watch later so they don’t forget. Also, it is easier to control cellphones in class if they are not hidden. Students would simply have to let their phones on their desk and ask if they are allowed to film something or if they can take a picture of the homework assignment written on the board.

Provide access to the Internet (can be a source of distraction)

– Students who are not attentive in class can either gaze at the window, draw in their books and even sleep. Those are the same students who will use their phone to play games or to do anything else only to forget about what is going on in the class.

I agree with his arguments and believe that cell phones in classroom are becoming a new reality. Teachers must not ignore them or forbid them, but they must take advantage of this situation. On top of that, it is free for schools because students already have their own devices.

After the presentation, I investigated a little bit more about different application of cell phones in classroom and found out by reading this study that an increasing number of teachers use cell phones for classroom activity. 

One interesting application that I have found on this website is to use cell phones to get students feedback from voting polls. They suggest using the free website Polls Everywhere to do organize classroom polls. It can either be used for feedback, trivia answers, surveys and more. Socrative is another application for voting polls well explained on this blog article.

This great article lists 40 ways to use cell phones in classrooms. A few of them that have caught my attention were using the camera to film school projects and Google maps to help students with geography. In fact, the possibilities are almost infinite with a little bit of creativity. Let’s not fear this technology and start using it for the best !

 

 

 

death_by_powerpoint1

Death by PowerPoint… Also called the triple P (PowerPoint Paralysis, as explained on this blog), is one of the main factors of boring classes. There was a time when basic PowerPoint presentations were impressive, but with the evolution of interactive and dynamic presentations, these old PowerPoint presentations start to seem be old had. However, I think that Microsoft PowerPoint is still great software and can produce interesting presentation. The problem is that it has been misused. Many teachers simply put their course notes in a PowerPoint document in order to read them on the board. In this kind of situation, PowerPoint is used as a disguise and does not add any value to the content. I understand that it is an easy way to avoid giving paper notes and to easily slide different pages of notes, but what I suggest is trying to add elements that will truly be able to catch students’ attention and support their interest.

I read a great article written by Lisa Nielsen that shows a research made on some students. They had to listen to a video showing a ‘boring’ PowerPoint presentation and tell how they would feel if they were in this classroom. Their answers were:

  • I would feel I should just be able to read that paper to myself somewhere more comfortable.
  • I would feel bored to death.
  • I would feel wonder as to why I bothered coming to class.
  • I would feel like I was suffering.
  • I would feel like my time would be better spent reading a book on my e-reader.

The first answer is my favorite because I, as a student, had this reflection many times. Often, teachers will accept to send their PowerPoint to their students via Internet. If the PowerPoint is only the course content with a background, then students can easily believe that going to the lecture is unnecessary. On the other side, if a PowerPoint presentation is made interesting (by using tips like these), most of the information should be told in class and the PowerPoint should only by there to support course content that is taught orally.

Some teachers may say that they don’t have enough time to create good looking and relevant PowerPoint. My answer to them would be that there are several websites where teachers share their own PowerPoints presentation. For example, this page gives a bunch of presentations for English learners (adverbs, descriptive writing, adjectives, idiom, nouns, etc). On this kind of page, English teachers can find almost anything they need for basic content.

Of course, new tools are available to make great presentations and I’m the kind of person who likes to experiment new technologies, but for teachers who do not want to learn to use new software, I recommend visiting websites that gives advices for good presentations. Once again, here’s Lisa Neilsen blog link, one that is highly relevant.

Graphix comic builder

Image

There are only a few events that I clearly remember from elementary school and one of them is the visit of a professional comic book artist. He did a presentation about his job and showed us some of his work. After the presentation, that man gave our teacher special cartoon paper so that we can work on our own comic page. I had a lot of fun doing that and today I can see how beneficial such an activity can be for students. It engages them into an artistic activity that lets them practice their story writing skills as well as their summarizing skills. It is now possible to do that kind of activity with students directly on computers.

I can’t say that doing this activity on the computer is better than on paper, but I think that it develops different skills.  While a paper comic is good for arts and craft skills while a digital one is good for layout skills. I remember that the school had to buy special paper for that and we had one page for each student. Because of that, we couldn’t make errors because we had only one chance. One good thing about using computers is that students can experiment with different tools in order to create a comic that they will be proud of. On top of that, it is free and avoids wasting paper. It is also fair for students who have difficulty with drawing. Those were the main differences. Their writing and summarizing skills stay the same for both ways.

The first website that I found for that kind of activity is from the game section of Marvel Comics’ website. Click here to try it. I wanted to write my blog article about that website, but I realized that girl students may not like it. Also, with the Marvel ‘s comic creator, you can only use Marvel heroes and I believe that it is not great for students’ creativity. I liked the simplicity of it though. I would recommend it to my students who would have liked the activity in class using another website if they want to make one at home about superheroes. This blog article is about different comic creators to use in class and agrees that the Marvel one has these limitations.

After reading different blog articles such as this one, I chose to use Graphix comic building with students. Graphix is made by Scholastic and consequently has a pedagogical approach. It is easy of access because unlike most of the other comic builders, you don’t need to subscribe with your email address. You only have to go on the website and start creating. Graphix offers three different styles for the variety of interest of students: Amulet (Medieval style), Smile (Social style) and Bones (Dark forest style).  Those styles come from actual Scholastic books, so if you can have your students read these books before, it could help them getting ideas to start. Graphix is easy to use and offers various layouts and characters. Even more, if students are done with their comic page, Graphix provides tutorials about comic book drawing and information of different comic book authors and illustrators. Here’s a video that shows what professional comic book artists think about the benefits of using Graphix.

Other websites can do pretty much the equivalent, but I found them less easy to use and a lot of them required subscription. Message to teachers: use the platform you want, but you definitely have to try that kind of activity with your students!

 

 

ImageThere is a new technology called “cloud computing”. This technology is available online as a storage space where users can store files and share them. Once a file is saved on the cloud, it becomes accessible from any electronic device connected to the Internet. Google Drive is one of the cloud-based networks that are available for free with a limited amount of storage space. This is a short explanation video about cloud computing that is understandable and truthful. Actually, it is explained by students!

A new reality

Cloud computing is the new thing for companies or even for schools. It enables companies to get rid of the physical servers and at the same time, it allows users at home or in schools to have access to a free cloud-based server. Google Drive is one server that has made it easier for everyday users. Here’s a page from the official Google Website that summarizes the different features of Google Drive.  Needless to say, a lot of teachers have started using Google Drive in their classrooms in order to communicate and share files with their students. Shelly Terrel is one of them and she wrote an interesting review on the different tools provided by Google on her blog.

Knowing that a lot of students have access to intelligent cell phones, tablets or laptops, I think it is good to provide access for them to the course content anytime on their electronic device. By content, I mean homework, course notes, readings, etc. One great feature of Google Drive is that students can also publish their own files to share with other students. I think it is great for collaborative work. One of the major problems of teamwork is communication and with a tool like Google Drive, students can exchange files with their teammates. It is also a way to have them hand out their assignments without wasting any paper.

Many extras

In addition to cloud basics, Google Drive has many other features that I find useful for teachers. I learned a few of those features for this website. It is oriented for teachers who want to use Google Drive with their students. Google Drive enables you to share videos, surveys, slide presentations and more. I would use the video option to have my students interested in the subject that I am about to cover, the survey option to have them give anonymously their opinion on discussions that we have had in class and the slides option to allow them to have access to what has been taught in class.

Back-up

This section is only for teachers. Teachers spend so much time building activities on their computers and cannot afford to lose those files because of a computer or hard drive problem. That is why I recommend any teacher who wants to have a back up of their files to use a platform like Google Drive. You can also buy extra memory and it is not that bad considering the price of hard drives. I think it is also safer up there in the clouds!

Conclusion

There are several ways for teacher to use Google Drive and I recommend it for any uses. It is a really helpful tool. Other platforms like Dropbox are also good for storage if that is the only option you need. If you want to push it a little further, try Google Drive for extras like slides, videos and surveys!

 

 

pinterest-logo

Pinterest is a free social network where users can “pin” content to their online bulletin board. An article on Edudemic website gives several examples of content to pin on Pinterest. A teacher can pin pictures, quotes, lectures, notes, research material, etc. I think that Pinterest is a good looking website and is great to share ideas and links in order to interest students in learning. This blog article will be about how I plan to use Pinterest as a teacher.

 

Current events

I believe that one of the roles of a second language teacher is to share cultural knowledge with students. That is why I think that a good way to use Pinterest is to pin English journal article to keep students well informed on current events. Pinterest’s attractive design can motivate students in reading those articles, especially when it is a suggestion that comes from their teachers. I learned from this blog article that important journals such as Wall Street journal and National Geographic are members of Pinterest. It is then easy for teachers to simply pin what they have seen on these bulletin boards.

 

Community           

Pinterest offers the possibility to be linked with your students via a community. That way, students can see your posts and you can se theirs as well. Is it also possible to comment posts and it may create interesting discussions between students and you. By commenting on your posts, students can prove you that they have read it and can be proud of themselves knowing that you are aware of their interest. There is an infographic on this blog article that expains briefly how a community on Pinterest works.

 

Classroom ideas (posters, activity, arts and craft)

I mentioned above different ways of using Pinterest with students, but one my favorite way to use this website is between teachers. With a simple keyword, I found a ton of idea for projects to do with students! For elementary teachers, a whole bunch of arts and crafts activities are available. Teachers from all around the world share their ideas with other teachers in order to help them with their own classrooms. For ESL teachers, I found a lot of posters for grammar, idioms, vocabulary and more. Click here to see examples.

I recommend this website to teachers who are looking for original ideas posted by other teachers and also suggest to push it a little further by inviting students to form a community.

Image

Now that the new generation of students has an easy access to Internet at home, new ways of teaching are possible. Tutorial videos are a new reality in learning. Children go on Youtube all the time to learn a bunch of things with tutorial videos that are often not related to school. It is now the time for schools to adapt to this new reality and the iPad app Show Me is the perfect tool to give the students access to tutorial lessons at home.

I first learn about his app from this blog article from freetech4teachers.com and I thought it was a great way to provide extra lessons for students while they are at home. Show Me’s design is similar to the Notebook software made for interactive white boards. This app provides writing and drawing tools and allows you to integrate pictures in your work. The main feature of Show Me, which is my favorite, is that teachers can record their voice while recording in real time their visual instructions. Here’s an example of a tutorial made using Show Me. It shows a simple introduction to prepositions for young ESL learners. I found this link on the official Show Me website, where lessons for all school subjects are available. Teachers who wanted to share their lessons with the rest of the world have made this possible. It is simple to share a presentation. A teacher only has to create an account of Show Me’s website and upload their videos online. After that, a Show Me presentation is available on any electronic device connected to Internet.

Students don’t have to own an iPad to have access to the tutorials. However, if they have access to one, having them create their own presentation can make fun activities. This wordpress article tells how easy it is to have the students work with this app and gives examples of activities. I think it is a good idea to make them produce their own tutorial videos because they have to reinvest their knowledge in order to create a coherent presentation.

I learned from this blog article that another app is similar to Show Me and it’s called Replay Note. However, this app sells for 4.99$ while Show Me is totally free. That’s why I think Show Me is a no brainer. It is easy to use and is highly pedagogical.

Image

Language teachers have a responsibility of teaching culture in the classrooms because of the various aspects of language. To know a language, it is important to know its historical and geographical contexts. I choose to write this blog article on an online program called StatWorld that can help a teacher when having to teach with maps for example. I discovered this program because of a blog article posted on free4teachers.com.

StatWorld is software developed by StatSilk for educational purposes. It contains a large database of statistics of all kinds. For example, there is information about economy and development, education, environment, gender, health, language, politic and population. Of course, history and geography teachers will use this tool more than an English teacher, but it can be a useful resource for different situations. An example of project where I would get my students involved with this resource would be a research and oral presentation on different countries and provinces. The students could use the program to find important information and then present it to the rest of the class with a dynamic display. Other ideas to use StatWorld can be found on a blog article from Scott Nailor, posted on www.interactivelanguagearts.com

Overall, this online program is not really hard to use and is interactive as well as dynamic. At first, I had a bit of trouble using the menus, but I’ve been able rapidly to use it without having difficulty.  Working with StatWorld on an Interactive White Board is a great idea. Teachers should give it a try when it comes to use maps and statistics in class.

 

For further reading:

StatSilk has also developed other problem of the same type but more for a professional use than Statsilk, which is better for education. Their most famous software is StatPlanet, an award-winning program used by organizations such as NASA, Siemens and Samsung. 

Interactive White Boards

 

upper school active board

IWB (Interactive white boards) are an important tool for teaching these days and will not stop gaining importance in the future. As a future teacher, it is my duty to find ways to integrate this technology in my classroom and to be aware of the difference that it makes for learners.

IWB can be used in different ways in school depending on the subject of the course. Specific tools are available for subjects like math and science. As an ESL teacher, I think that I will use my interactive board on a regular basis mostly for its dynamic visual, but by searching a little bit on different websites, I found different IWB activities and resources made specifically for English learning.

Dynamic visual

Students are hoping their teachers to be dynamic and to be interesting. Instead of writing on a blackboard, giving a class by using an IWB in class can make an important difference for student’s attention. The most basic feature of an IWB is the possibility to operate a computer by standing up in front of the class. I would for sure prioritize this kind of use rather than going back and forth on the computer to scroll down or to change powerpoint slides. This concept keeps the students from being distracted. It keeps their attention on a central spot and it is good. It is well explained on this blog article from Royalbert that sleepy students are entertained by IWB and tells how effectively it can increase students’ attention.

Online activities

During my search, I found a bunch of great online activities for spelling and alphabet in English on a website named Teacherled, you can find different application of whiteboard activities for Maths, Geography and English! Here’s an example of a spelling activity that can by found and this website. I like the ease of use of that kind of activity. There is no download or installation required and it may come in handy IWB beginners. A great thing about this way of teaching is that it increases students’ retention and comprehension.

Student participation

I also learned about ways to have the students work on a whiteboard. Of course it is difficult to have more than one student at a time in front of the class working on the board, but it can lead to great team activities in class. I have found a great Google Docs presentation on Boxoftricks.net website that suggests 33 ways of using IWB in classroom. A high number of ways is about the students using the board. It even tells tips to help the students write on the board if they are too tall enough! That website gave me ideas like having the students play trivia games in team and they have to go click on the right answer on the board after consultation. Doing that kind of activities increases student’s motivation is that is why I want to use them.

Conclusion

After my research, I discovered new ideas to integrate IWB in my teaching. I plan to use my whiteboard mainly to give more dynamic classes, but I will also use several online applications to help retention and I will make my students work on the board as well to make them participation and be active in their learning.

Image

Storytelling is a great activity in classrooms of young students and even with older. I remember as a child when stories were read in my classes. I loved it. I was impressed by the quality of my teacher’s reading. It was almost a perfect activity. The only problem was the lack of pictures we could see. My teachers would turn their book after reading a page to show the students the pictures printed in it and we could barely see it! Not to mention the students in the back of the class that could not see at all. Today, on a blog article from freetech4teachers, I discovered a great app called Haiku Deck that now allows teachers to solve this problem. That article also gives a link of an example of presentation that promotes the use of pictures in story telling.

Haiku Deck is an iPad app that is very intuitive and free. It helps you create great looking presentations for storytelling or any other kind of slide presentation. The focus of the application is really on pictures and visual. Text is even limited to let the pictures be the main subject. It is only possible to add keywords or a sentence or two on the pictures. This limitation is needed since the picture itself is the backdrop for the text. One disadvantage I found is that you cannot change the size of the text. There is one small box of text and a big one. Sometimes simplicity does not help! Selecting a different theme can change the font style but not its size unfortunately.

The best feature according to me is that the app comes with an access to a great database, which is full of beautiful stock pictures that can be found by simply entering keywords. The app even suggests you related keywords in order to help you find even more pictures. I really like this option because pictures on websites like iStockphoto can be quite expensive and Haiku Deck gives you the same quality for free. Lifehacker blog has an article about how gorgeous these presentations can be.

Ways to use Haiku Deck in class

Haiku Deck provides a lot of possibilities for teachers. I think one of the best ways to use it is by having the students write a story and letting them present it to their classmates by creating a Haiku Deck presentation. The problem is that except for a few pilot projects, iPad are not available in school. I understand that it is a big investment and maybe in a couple of years it will start to happen. A faster solution would be for Haiku Deck to make their software available on other platforms. That way, it would be a lot easier for students to have access to it. 

Another way to use it is to teach with it as a visual support, like we do on PowerPoint. Haiku Deck’s website provides different examples of presentation made from their app. Still, I may not be able to have my entire course one a Haiku Deck presentation because of the text limitation, but the students may be more attentive to my teaching instead of reading and copying text that is on the screen.

In conclusion, I would use this application in class for some special presentations (mostly short ones) when I need to show stunning pictures to my students and that text limitation does not bug me. I also like the idea that my students could work on their own presentation with that tool, but it does not seem doable for now. 

Pros

–       Free stock pictures database, beautiful visual

–       Free app

–       Export function into PowerPoint

–       Can be watched from any computer connected to Internet

Cons

–       Presentations can only be edited with an iPad

–       Font cannot be moved outside of the presets and size cannot be modified.