A quick introduction to Kaizena

Kaizena is one of the best options available to provide audio feedback to your students. You just need a Google account and a computer with a built-in microphone. Take a look at the following video I created to learn more about it.

For more information, please visit https://kaizena.com

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Frozen in thought? How we think and what we do in ELT – IATEFL online

Day one of the IATELF conference in Manchester. Donald Freeman presents Frozen in thought? How we think and what we do in ELT.

In this talk, he examines some of the central ideas about how teaching and learning work, about the teacher’s role, and about the classroom goals of English instruction. I argue that, if they are left unscrutinized and unchallenged, the ideas can undermine teachers’ professional confidence and stunt training and research. Therefore re-examining them, thereby thawing our thinking, is a critical step in reasserting social control over the public work of English language teaching.

He also argues that, if they are left unscrutinized and unchallenged, the ideas can undermine teachers’ professional confidence and stunt training and research. Therefore re-examining them, thereby thawing our thinking, is a critical step in reasserting social control over the public work of English language teaching.

You can see the video of his presentation below. 

You can download the PDF of the plenary from this link:

https://db.tt/z8E4HV2g

FluentU – Learn a new language with real-world videos

FluentU is another great web app for everyone learning a new language using videos. The free account gives you access to rich and well organized library of videos, all of them with their respective transcripts. Once you indicate your level of the target language, a list of suggested videos to practice your vocabulary appears. When you select the video the whole list of words appear below and you can use the visual definition of the word, some useful example sentences and its pronunciation. After that you can watch the video and see the words in action under the video as a transcription, which is great to see the use of vocabulary, grammar and use of english in real world situations. Then you can practice the word that you select using short exercises like fill in the gaps, multiple choice and writing, among others. Another great feature of FluentU is that you can create your own set of flashcards for more practice and to keep record of your progress. Although, this option is not as complete as Quizlet. An introductory video with its most important characteristics.

There are lots of advantages of using videos to learn a new language or practice, one of the most important deals with the chance to hear and see real world content, this gives the user the ability to increase their engagement with the language. You also get rid of the structured dialogues presented in the textbooks that in most cases are quite hard to listen in real situations. Using the web player of FluentU you can follow the transcript, practice, repeat and continue until you learn. According to the people behind FluentU the company is in charge to select the best videos from the web mostly based on authentic material.  They also provide the following assumptions:

  1. Individualized scaffolding: FluentU makes language learning easy by teaching new words with vocabulary students already know.

  2. Mastery Learning: FluentU sets students up for success by making sure they master the basics before moving on to more advanced topics.

  3. Gamification: FluentU incorporates the latest game design mechanics to make learning fun and engaging.

  4. Personalization: Each student’s FluentU experience is unlike anyone else’s. Video clips, examples, and quizzes are picked to match their vocabulary and interests.

There are, of course, some limitations of this technology and most of them deal with the content itself. Its is good in the basic level but quite limited in the more advanced levels and some other features that are unique for the premium plans. Mobile applications are still in development and the need to be always connected to enjoy the contents is also another limitation. In the end FluentU wants to be a Learning Management System (LMS) with unique features to differentiate from the existing software and web based apps, but it is just starting.

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Tellagami – Short and simple animated videos

Tellagami is a very easy to use application for iOS and Android in which you can make short videos called “Gamis”. Similar to Voki (Vodcasting) you have to use an avatar, which is a digital character. With this virtual person you will have the possibility to tell stories, poems, make presentations, etc. using your own voice. In this way you can help your students develop their confidence while practicing speaking, help them with their motivation and engagement with the class, and work collaboratively while creating or editing their video projects.

The first step to use this apps is to go to the AppStore or Google Play and download it. Once installed, you just have to follow the basic tutorial to learn how to use it and start creating your first Gami.  One of the good things of this app is that there is no need to create an account, so you do not have to waste time filling in forms and login in to use it.

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After that, you have to customize your character with the different options available. Most of them are available for free with the possibility to use the in-app purchase if you want more possibilities.

Then you have to change the background. Again you have a limited set of scenarios called packs. But there are three options here that are really useful: Camera, Library and Doodle.

  • Camera: You can use your smartphone camera to create a custom image background, giving you the possibility to use real escenarios.
  • Library: You can access your phone photo gallery and use one of your pictures stored there.
  • Doodle: A very basic option but with lots of potential. Change the background to green, blue or any color, you can also use the brush to draw or write and erase with the rubber.

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Once you are done with this you can proceed to record your voice. Just tap the message bubble, then voice and finally record. You have 30 seconds for free and the possibility to buy 90 seconds and a text-to-speech option.

Finally using the share icon you can preview your recording, save it on your device or upload it and share the video link which is stored in the Tellagami website.

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Appsmash

If you want to experiment the full potential of your Gami to be use in the classroom as a project. You can use the doodle option. For example, use a green background, record a video, then import it to iMovie or similar, add audio, other pictures, etc. and create a story. This is called and Appsmash.

App smashing involves the following steps:

  1. Create content with one app.
  2. Create content with another app (or apps).
  3. Merge content together (smashing).
  4. Publish content to the web.

 

More information here:

 

An example video:


Limitations

The possibilities are endless, but there are some limitations.

With the free version, you have some limited options to personalize your digital character: the physical appearance, the clothing items and the background. Another limitation is the length of the video which is tied to only 30 seconds in this version. This freemium app can be a bit pricey. Be careful with the in-app purchase options or it can cost you a lot. As you can see above using it together with other apps is a good idea but it is also time consuming, and sometimes you just need an app that works.

 

I suggest you to use this tool in a project based classroom and always in combination with other apps. Don’t be afraid try Tellegami!

Lingua.ly – Learn new words from every website

Lingua.ly was born under the promise of learning a new language as you read the web collecting words, defining them with pictures and example sentences, and then practicing when the time is right, at your own pace and wherever you are.

This vocabulary tool  is an innovative way to learn a language online, you can use it in your web-browser or in your mobile devices. As I mentioned before you have the possibility to  collect new vocabulary words from any web page you are reading, which is very useful when you are starting to read and do not remember the translation of a certain word. Once you install the extension in your browser then you just have to double click the word you do not know and the built in smart dictionary translate it for you and add it to your set of flashcards, which gives you the possibility  to practice your new vocabulary later.

If you login in the website you will also have the the opportunity to test yourself with our games and quizzes. In this way gamification elements produce an engagement with the user as it challenges him/her to practice and beat their previous records while having fun, and they can also share their progress using the social media buttons.

The website promotes the following slogan “The more you study with Lingua.ly, the more Lingua.ly studies you!” which is essential to differentiate this application from other similar alternatives such as Duolingo or Busuu, as it learns about your progress and suggests more advanced articles from the web to get the best results. You can also choose the topics you want to read about, so you can have a personalised language learning experience.

The flexibility of Lingua.ly is also present in the mobile apps (iOS and Android), in which you do not see a formal class structure but your progress to acquire new vocabulary at your own pace. The academics behind Lingua.ly based their product under the glossing approach, which idea is to provide the definitions, whether brief or long, of key vocabulary terms alongside the text in which they appear to get a more precise interpretation of it.

How does the web app works?

It is not only about vocabulary or reading

When using Lingua.ly you can also practice your pronunciation as you can listen to the definition of the words. Another idea to practice speaking and listening skills is to make a story telling based on your flashcards with the new words or read aloud the lines of the articles where you get them.

The drawbacks

One of the main drawback of this application is that you really need at least a basic level of the language you are trying to practice, as sometimes definitions can not be so clear or gives you another use of the word. You have to be careful discriminating the vocabulary words you get. Try not to use advanced words from the beginning, keep it simple and go step-by-step. There are no ways to collaborate with others in real time, you can just challenge them to play using their own devices and without interaction. The last but least important disadvantage is that an internet connection is necesary to fully operate Lingua.ly in your devices.

Finally if you really want to get the best from this app and learn you have to keep in mind that it requires a lot of self-discipline and practice to master a second language, so don’t give up!

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Voxopop – online voice discussions and learning

Voxopop is a web application program, it is also quite simple to manage and you can use it as an online learning tool to create podcasts, speaking forums or threads based on one particular topic. Here questions are asked using voice recordings instead of text and the answers are made in the same way, so It can be used to help students develop their oral speaking skills by having them reply to questions using voice recorded answers and by hearing the recorded answers from their classmates.

This collaboration tool is particularly useful in language teaching, where a teacher can post a question in the language they are teaching and have students respond orally to the question in the same language. Also to increase participation of all the students as it makes possible to reach all of them, something that it is quite hard to get in the classroom environment in which you certain constraints like the amount of students or time to develop speaking activities.

Strengths

There are many strengths in using Voxopop, for me one of the most important is that allows students to practice speaking and listening using real materials, which is a unique experience as we are commonly exposed to the recordings presented in the textbooks. The second one is that it is totally free, you just need to create an account using your email and as a teacher you can invite your students to participate in the discussion. There is also a large amount of public discussions available, in this way your students can get involved in different discussion groups and increased their confidence in using the foreign language. In terms of assessment you can use it to keep track of your students improvement. Finally they can use the subscription option to follow the feed on their iPhones or any device that supports podcasts.

Weaknesses

One of the weaknesses of this tools are based on the use of Java as the recording platform, this can be a very slow process and your browser can sometimes even block the application. Try to set it up correctly following the steps of the help and support page and you will be able to succeed in creating your discussions. Another drawback is that it does not work very well on mobile devices.

What else can you do?

The power of Voxopop is mainly related to your imagination as a teacher, one of the best ways to use it is to create online portfolios for students, which they can access, study and practice. For instance, you can create an IELTS portfolio to practice the Speaking section and provide feedback based on example questions of previous tests.

A final consideration deals with the privacy of your recordings. There are three different options: Public, Restricted and Private.

  • Public: Anyone can view, listen and become a member of your discussion, not very useful if you want to work with a control group.
  • Restricted: Anyone can view and listen but they need to ask for permission to join the group.
  • Private: No one can view or listen unless invited to the group.

 

If you want to know more about Voxopop follow Russell Stannard video on: http://www.teachertrainingvideos.com/audio-podcasting/voxopop.html

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Popplet mind mapping made simple

Popplet is a not only an application that can be used to create mind maps, but it is also a very simple and easy to use graphic organising tool that can help you to create discussions about certain topics, storyboards, timelines and everything that you or your students could imagine. It is quite similar to Padlet, but there are some differences that are really useful to make your classes more collaborative and engaging.

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To start working with Popplet you need to create an account which requires you to write a username, password and email. The free web version allows you to create only 5 popplets but you have all the features available. There is also a paid iOS application available for iPhone and iPad, and a monthly or yearly subscription fee on the web.

Teachers might use popplet to provide stimulus materials to their students and challenge them to post their answers, comments and collaborate to create new popples, which can increase the richness of the activity developed in the classroom and also outside of it.   Feedback can be provided in each popple box via the comments function, so the students can improve and edit their work later. To make this possible you need to share your popplet publicly or add previously registered collaborators.

Once you are ready with your project you can use the presentation mode to make slideshows, embed it to your blog or website or share it via social networks. Another alternative is to export it as a picture (jpeg and png) or PDF.

The drawbacks.

Working online can be sometimes very difficult if you don’t have a reliable internet connection and there are also concerns related to privacy issues, copyright and lack of moderation. In relation to the privacy issues Popplet sets the default privacy settings as private, leaving the responsibility to the content creator to change this parameters later. The limitation to create only 5 popplets is another problem, but you use always recycle and reuse some that are already made public. The recommendation is to always check them and be sure that the content is the right for your activity and group of students. The rest of the issues can be solved by the teacher and his/her students in a previous class in which the rules can be established.

An idea to be used in the ELT classroom.

As I mentioned before you can use Popplet in many different ways. Now I am going to give you an idea to work with the Conditionals (adapted from Stanley, G. (2013). Language learning with technology: ideas for integrating technology in the language classroom. United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press)

  • Title: “What would have happend if …”
  • Learning focus: Use of the conditionals.
  1. Create a story with your students using the title “The date that never was”.

Example: The date that never was

  • Roberto and Natalia met at a party and got really well.
  • They arranged to meet at the movies the next day.
  • Natalia took Roberto’s WhatsApp number.
  • Roberto didn’t get Natalia’s number.
  • Natalia lost Roberto’s number.
  • Roberto thought they had arranged to meet at 17:30.
  • Natalia remember they had arranged to meet at 19:30.
  • Roberto waited at the movies for an hour.
  • Natalia arrived 15 minutes after Roberto had left.
  • Roberto and Natalia were upset thinking that one of them had forgot about the date.
  • Put each sentence in a different popple.
  1. Ask your students to brainstorm the things that might have been different for each of the sentences.

Example: If they hadn’t gone to the party, they wouldn’t have arranged to meet later or If only Roberto had remembered the exact time of the date …

  1. In groups or pairs the students create a branching and hypothetical storyline using the question “What would have happend if …”
  2. Finally, the teacher checks and provides feedback using the comment option in the popples.

Popplet link: http://popplet.com/app/#/2368113

Kahoot a game-based classroom response system

Kahoot is a student response system. You may remember the old-fashioned clicker or you might be using Socrative. However Kahoot is different to those approaches because it incorporates gamification elements, which makes the learning process fun and engaging.

With this tool you can create game-like quizzes, discussions and surveys to challenge your students learning and make them participating in their learning process. Questions, along with answer choices, are projected in a classroom screen or projection, while students submit responses using a handset device (smartphone, tablet, notebook, etc)

As you can see in the picture bellow the devices display color and symbol choices only; the actual answer must be viewed on the classroom screen, the ones that submit their answer in less time get more points, which makes your to actively participate in the quiz.

One important thing is that playing a game Kahoot! doesn’t involve creating an account for each one of your students. Every Kahoot  that you create or use from the public ones available has a game PIN number, which the learners have to type in their devices and then write their names. Although, if you want to make your own quizzes you need to create a teacher’s account. To do it just follow my video tutorial:

A short summary of what you’ll need to use Kahoot with your students:

  • Internet access.
  • A screen monitor or projector.
  • Devices (smartphones, tablets, notebooks, etc), not necessarily one for each of your students, you can make them work with a partner or in a small group.
  • A Kahoot relevant to your class either made by you or others.

Is It good for Language Learning?

As any tool available to be used in the classroom you have to be very critical about it. I recommend you to first test it on your own or with your colleagues, discuss and reflect about it, improve your quizzes and then teach your students how to use it, so you can finally put it on practice.

You can make use of Kahoot to teach grammar, vocabulary or using a CLIL approach to discuss historical events, important celebrations, famous people around the world or the body parts. Everything depends on the topic you are working on in the class. The main idea behind this tool is to create useful and challenging content to support your teaching and promote your learners collaboration in the classroom. In this way they will be engaged and motivated to participate in the game, and you will be able to make them more critical about they learning.

At the end of every activity there is a scoreboard that displays the top 5 results, and your students will be able to provide feedback about the quiz with a star rating, yes/no questions and happy faces. Once they do that, you will be able to collect the entire information as an Excel file or directly on your Google Drive account.

The drawbacks.

There are three main problems that you need to consider when working with technology:

  • Disruption: Using internet or any device connected to it can be very useful but disrupting at the same time, controlling a large number of students and any other technological problem can transform your very nice game into a long nightmare.
  • Quality of the content: If you decide to use a public Kahoot try to check in the content available is useful but also challenging and of good quality. It will take some time to find a good one.
  • Quality of the feedback: Again, depending of the activity or topic you are working with you have to provide a good feedback, it’s not only having fun with the game, but learn, correct the mistakes and improve in the learning process.

Creating a Kahoot quiz.

Create a Kahoot quiz is very simple, just follow the following steps:

  1. Choose what you want to create. In this case a quiz.
  2. Write a name for your quiz, add questions and their answers.
  3. It’s done! Now you can mark some options before launching the game.

Playing

  1. Launch the game and wait for your students to join the Kahoot.
  2. They have to write the PIN number and their name.
  3. Start the game.
  4. While playing.
  5. Finishing and giving feedback.
  6. Collecting the results.

Link to my Kahoot example: https://play.kahoot.it/#/k/29277475-d733-45ad-a85b-a017a1efd0c8

You can see the previous steps in the following gallery:

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Padlet: more than just a digital cork wall!

Great ideas are produced when you work collaboratively as a group or team. However, depending of the number of people involved in each activity, to organize them could be a nightmare. Brainstorms, post-it notes, pictures, quotes, etc. are just a few examples of how to put ideas together in a cork wall or bulletin board in your classroom.If you want to expand this activity, it is a good idea to flip your classroom, one of the benefits of doing this is the possibility to reach all your students. A great tool to do this is Padlet.

Group work. Source: Flickr using Creative Commons License

Padlet is a free, simple and very easy to use digital cork wall. It can be used by the teacher and students to keep all the ideas, notes, brainstorms and everything they can imagine in one place. They can access to it from everywhere with just one link. Moreover, the notes can contain videos from youtube or a similar service, pictures, links and documents that you can upload from your computer or embed from your favorite cloud service (Dropbox, Onedrive, Google Drive, etc).

A few ideas to integrate Padlet in the classroom or outside of it can be:

  • Make noticeboards.
  • Teach.
  • Bookmark favorite sites.
  • Discuss.
  • Brainstorm.
  • Make greeting cards.
  • Plan events.
  • Keep notes.
  • Make lists.
  • Watch, share and discuss videos.
  • Learn.
  • Collect and provide feedback.

And even more using your creativity.

Padlet also includes a media viewer, that means that anyone with the permission to see the wall can scroll through all of the images, links, videos, and document files that have been posted in the notes on a wall. You can use it anonymously or create an account with a valid email, and there is an option to use your Google or Facebook accounts to log in. A paid version is also available but it is not really necessary, the free account works great.

If you are worried about privacy issues, you have to know that each of your walls can be set to private or public view, more options are also available in the settings page and you can modify them according to your preferences at any time. The teacher also has the possibility to moderate responses.

 

A basic tutorial of how to use Padlet.

 

01_Padlet

02_Sign in

  • Step 2: Create a new Padlet from your Dashboard. You can also see other options here.

03_Dashboard

 

  • Step 3: This is your first Padlet. Now you can modify your wall using the tools from the right dock.

04_wall

  • Step 4: Adjust the privacy.

09_Privacy

  • Step 5: Select a new layout.

08_Layout

  • Step 6: Write and edit your first post.

10_Example

11_edit or delete

12_Writing tools

  • Step 7: Share it and continue working on it.

06_Share options

An example picture:

13_ Final version

One idea to practice.

In one of our classes at university Natalia and I decided to use Padlet to complement one class in which the topic was a Gap Year.

A text from the British Council web page was adapted to use in classes (http://learnenglishteens.britishcouncil.org/uk-now/read-uk/gap-year).

Background.

  • Hypothetical target group of students

Our students are doing their last high-school year in either Chile or Uruguay. Some will attend university next year and others will join the workforce. Those who attend university may need to find a part-time job to be able to finance their studies.

  • Topic area that may motivate this group.

Our students are likely to be motivated by the topic area work, as they will see a clear connection between the topic and their lives in a year’s time. Anything related to this topic from specific vocabulary to CV and application letter writing will be useful to these learners. Alternatively, our students may want to do something different, something that is common in Europe but not so popular in South America: take a year off: a gap year.

  • Task:

Using Padlet the students add their ideas of what they will do when they leave school. They are expected to use Conditionals (If Clauses Type 1) starting with the sentence When I leave school …

You can check the result or even add new ideas visiting our Padlet.

Difficulties of working with Padlet.

One of the most important difficulties of working with Padlet is that you need to be always connected to internet to modify it and its performance can decrease if you do not have a good connection.

Another trouble is that requires the teacher to be alert of the content that can be shared, you have to protect your students from copyright issues such as videos, pictures and music. This can be easily done establishing a code of conduct, discussing and reviewing the digital literacy available online in a previous class.

Last but not least, always remember the pedagogy behind the use of this tool. It is not all about the technology itself but how to complement the content, engage, motivate and make your student learn with it.