An engaged tone: how ELT might handle the ‘EdTech revolution’ – IATEFL 2015

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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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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

myBrainshark – Add voice to your presentations

myBrainshark is a very useful cloud-based tool for teachers and students as well, that allows you to enrich your PowerPoint presentations with voice, narrate a document, do video presentations, make a photo album with your voice and even produce a podcast, and all of these for free.

There are tons of different ways in which you can use myBrainshark with your students, for example you can help your students to:

  • practice and improve their speaking skills.
  • make all students to participate, including those that are too shy to do it in a face to face escenario.
  • promote autonomous learning.
  • give feedback to their classmates and promote collaboration.
  • improve their listening skills with authentic material, watching others presentations.
  • give a space for reflection.
  • create a digital portfolio.

All of these activities helps you to create a new classroom environment known as “flipped classroom” which is a form of blended learning and can help you to save a huge amount of classroom time. So your students can concentrate on applying, rather than simply receiving ideas in class. With more time the teacher can have a better understanding of every learner and the way they are learning, paying attention to most of their needs and motivate them to continue making progress.

As mentioned before with the help of this tool you also offer students the opportunity to reflect on their learning, practise their speaking or listening skills and reduce the anxiety that they experiment in every assessment, helping them to gain confidence and progress.

For teachers myBrainshark can be an excellent opportunity to experiment with the virtual classroom environment, as they can complement their presentations with their own voice and in that way engage in a different way with all the participants.

There are of course some limitations for this tools, like all the time necessary to learn, create and polish your presentations, other presentation tools, such as Slideshare, Prezi or Presentme, the lack of a mobile application and also that it is mostly oriented to business, so it can be a little bit difficult to find educational topics, which it has been solved as many educator are using this tool.

To learn more about myBrainshark you can see the following introductory video by Russell Stannard:

And finally I invite you to see one of my examples in the following link:

http://my.brainshark.com/Benefits-of-ICTs-534609693

Have fun!

Souncloud for Podcasting in the EFL/ESL Classroom

Before I start talking about Podcasting, do you really know what is a podcast? Just googling around you can find thousands of definitions but the best is the one from the iTunes website that says:

Podcasts are episodes of a program available on the Internet. Podcasts are usually original audio or video recordings, but can also be recorded broadcasts of a television or radio program, a lecture, a performance, or other event.Podcasts usually offer each episode in the same file format, such as audio or video, so that subscribers can enjoy the program the same way each time. Some podcasts, such as language courses, include multiple file formats, such as video and documents, to teach more effectively.

There is no doubt that Podcasts are very popular and incredibly useful for our teaching purposes, Apple offers an application to manage them on every iOS device and it is a very important section on iTunes, they add:

For podcast listeners, podcasts are a way to enjoy great content from around the world for free. For podcast publishers, podcasts are a great way to reach a wide audience.

So, there is a great possibility to explore as teachers and language learners.

In this occasion I am going to show you one application that it’s great to create your own content, manage it and share it:

Soundcloud

It is one of the best social sound platforms and lets you to record, store and share your sound to the most popular social networks or your blog, your recordings can be listened by your followers, friends or the ones that you allow because you can manage your privacy.

To create your content you need to create a free account at www.soundcloud.com

After that  you can update your profile, it is very simple. Then press the button to upload your previously recorded file or create a new one.

Upload or Record

Wait for the recording to be processed, meanwhile you can add some descriptions.

Add descriptions

You can make it public or private and even use the Creative Commons Licence to protect your creation.

Protect your content

Once it is ready just press save. There you are! you created the first of many podcasts.

Your personal page

Using the Mobile app is even simpler, just tap record and follow the steps.

Mobile Android App

The result is something like this (press Play to hear):

The possibility of adding comments to a specific part of the recording can be very useful when using it with your students, you can provide accurate feedback and motivate them to make it even better the next time, increasing students motivation and engagement.

You can also suggest them to follow the most popular ESL/EFL podcasts in the application (web or mobile), interact with the authors of the content and generate a social network that will help them to be more confident and learn according to their interests. This can also be done on iTunes but without the possibility to add comments.

Popular Podcasts

If you can generate your own content as a teacher you can also improve your communications skills and get a huge audience, which means new possibilities of continuing your professional development. If you are thinking of podcasts it is a very interesting possibility.

On the dark side the free account just allows you to upload 3 hours of sound and if you need more space you will have to pay a monthly or annual fee. Another disadvantage is the time necessary to create the recording you want to share in your channel, sometimes it will be very difficult to find the right place and time to start recording, then editing and finally uploading your content, but once you master your abilities on it, you can reuse it anytime you want and just add some quick updates, so try not to give up and keep going on!

Sources: Souncloud – Apple iTunes

Gallery: Imgur

Tricider – Online voting and decision making

Tricider is a great tool to engage your students in the decision-making of the class, this online survey system allows you to write an idea and then let your students collaborate adding new ones, giving instant feedback, adding pros and cons and finally make them part of the class. For example I can make a simple question like: “How can we use WhatsApp to teach Speaking?”

Tricider

As you can see new ideas can appear, students can provide pros and cons and vote for the best ones. You can invite your students to participate in this survey using Twitter, Facebook, Email or just adding the URL of the survey, like the one in the example: http://www.tricider.com/brainstorming/35eX1nhsdK7

Advantages for this kind of application are tons, but for me the most important is that you can empower your students making them part of the process of their own learner which can motivate them to want to learn more and also provides you with the feedback necessary to pay attention to the needs of your class. Although on the bad side of the story this is only a web application and can only work using a computer and an internet connection, there is no smart phone application yet.

If you want to see Tricider in action here is a short video:

And if you want to experiment and learn even more please go to Russell’s Teacher Training Videos, which guides you step by step. You will see that it is very simple. Don’t be afraid! You can do it!

Link: Tricider

Duolingo for Schools brings the language learning platform into the classroom

Duoling for schools

Duolingo has introduced a new platform designed specifically for use in schools that promises to make it easier for teachers to keep up with students’ language learning progress.

If you don’t know anything about Duolingo take a look at the following video:

Last year Duolingo Test Center was launched under the promise to certify the level of proficiency in the target language, and now the company behind one of the most popular language learning apps of the world is giving us Duolingo for Schools, which is the company’s first formal steps to work into the classroom.

In this way Duolingo is now present not only as quite simple and easy to use application to learn at your own on every a handheld device or your web-browser, but also as a companion system that will let teachers to track their students progress., helping them to highlight where a student is having more problems.

The words use by the company’s co-funderLuis von Ahn were:

“The goal is to provide a personalized learning experience that gives each student and instructor immediate feedback in the classroom. This can free up teachers’ time to concentrate on difficult concepts, answer questions, and assist students falling behind,”

With this new application the parent can also be involved in the process of learning of their children, participating in an active way allowing them to see the progress of every class and which lessons have been completed with specific and clear reports.

Duolingo continues to be an excellent option and the company is really concern of continue being the leader of the language learning mobile apps. The constant evolution of their products is also being tested by some governments and teacher around the globe.

For an excellent review of Duolingo follow this link:

http://suzannetechnojourney.blogspot.co.uk/2015/02/vocabulary.html

Finally take a look at Duolingo for schools: https://schools.duolingo.com/