Category Archives: Teacher Training

Web-Based Podcasting Tools

There are different options for creating podcasts, with Audacity being perhaps one of the most popular ones. But because the software looks a bit too complicated, I usually opt for web-based tools available for free.

There are many things an educator can use podcasts for. I mainly use podcasts for various speaking activities as the main aim and listening as the subsidiary aim. This allows my students to practise their speaking skills even more. They can tell stories, or continue each other’s stories, etc.

In this blog post, I would like to share some of my favourite podcast tools with you.

AudioPal is the only tool that is interactive, i.e. if an AudioPal recording is embedded into a site, it starts playing automatically as soon as the site loads. So a greeting message or a site introduction message could be perfect. It also allows you to record your message by phone which is a nice option if your mic isn’t working very well.

No registration is required and the tool is easy to use. It has record-by-phone, text-to-message, record or upload an MP3 options.

I think the screenshot is pretty self-explanatory.

Chirbit – this site has some nice options: apart from the usual click-to-record to create a podcast option or upload option, it also allows users to convert a Youtube video into a podcast (Chirbit, as it is called on the site) and you can also convert text to audio just like with AudioPal.

It actually takes a very short time to turn a yotube video into a podcast which then can be embedded into a blog or any other site. There is a commenting option, which can be used with students to discuss a Youtube-to-Chirbit talk. Chribits can also be transcribed something that my students enjoy doing. They say that this improves their listening skills and concentration.

Here is an example of a Youtube video turned into a Chirbit.

PodOmatic works more or less the same as the previous ones. With the free account you get 500MB of storage and 15GB of bandwidth a month. So not too bad.

There are many options for sharing the recordings: you can embed the podcast into a blog or a wiki, you can send it to someone’s email address, you can share it on many social networking sites. The episodes can aslo be downloaded. So if you are worried about storage, you can just download the episode and then delete it from your podomatic page.

You can also follow other educators and use their recordings, with their permission of course.

Vocaroo – this one is probably the easiest to use. All you need is to go to the website and you are ready to record or upload an audio message.

As you can see, the tool is pretty easy to use. just Click to Record and start speaking.











After you have finished recording, you can listen to it and save or if you dislike it, you can re-record. Then all you need to do is to click save and then you get the options seen on the screenshot below.

















You can share the recording, email it to the person it is intended for or simply download it.

The best thing about Vocaroo is that the recordings on the site are not searchable so we don’t have to worry too much about privacy.

Voxopop – This tool is the same as the other ones but it is also different in that it is really good for group discussions. A teacher creates a talkgroup and invites students to take part. This could be a discussion of a burning issue or a piece of breaking news. Learners listen to what their teacher has to say, then in the same group they record their own opinions and listen to each other’s ideas. Here again we have integrated skills practice: listening and speaking. If the students are required to read the news before they can take part, then they also improve their reading skills.

This is what a talkgroup looks like.

I myself use this tool a lot with my IELTS students. They record their replies and then I record my feedback in the same talkgroup. This makes it easier for each student to track their progress and not get lost in lots of different links.

There are only two drawbacks: 1. the talkgroups are not embeddable, and 2. you do not receive notifications about new posts; you have to log in every day to see if there is anything new or not. Even so, I really like Voxopop. 

Web-Based Collaborative Whiteboards

Some of my Pre-Intermediate adult students told me the other day that there are some grammar points that they would like to revise with me because they couldn’t understand them on their own. Not to spend class time on this (we have been given only 62 hours to cover a level), I started looking for web-based whiteboards. I tested some that I found and invited my students to join the online lesson. This was in the evening and everyone was at home, so it was easy for them not to think about work and concentrate on the lesson. I used 3 of the tools to compare and share with you plus 2 extra ones to look at.

1. DrawVille – this is a very simple tool and doesn’t require registration. All you need to do is to type in your name and click on Start Drawing. Once you are in, you can send the link to people you want to join the lesson and wait for their names to appear in the ‘users’ list. There is also a chat room which I used to answer my student’s questions. (For this lesson I invited 1 student because he was the only one who had questions about adjectives and adverbs.)
At the end of the session the whiteboard looked like this:

While I was typing in the explanation, my student used a black marker to draw my attention to points that he wanted clarification for or examples of. We also used the chat room to discuss what was being explained. Here’s a screenshot of some parts of the chat.

My student really enjoyed the lesson and the whiteboard and to experiment with it he wrote ‘Thank you’ in a circle, which you can see at the bottom of the whiteboard. To save the lesson we both clicked on “Export drawing surface”, which allows saving the surface in JPEG. Now if need be, I can upload or share the lesson with other students in the future.

2. The next tool is Scriblink which again doesn’t require registration. You only need to run Java on your computer and the whiteboard loads immediately. This tool has a chat room too. It also has maths formulas so it might be of interest to maths teachers too. There are options for grids and image upload, which is quite useful. I think I can simply make a screenshot of a piece of writing sent by a student, upload it to the whiteboard as image, invite a student to the session and go over mistakes in the writing task. Because this tool has 5 whiteboards in 1, I can also use the other ones to explain grammar in which that particular student made the most mistakes.

I used this tool to explain Present Continuous.

The save option here only sends a link to your mailbox from which you can later access the lesson. So I just took a screenshot of the lesson, to be able to upload or share it.

3. The third one is CoSketch a multi-user online whiteboard. It doesn’t require registration and all you need to do is click ‘Create new sketch’ and you are ready to start. There is a chat room, and it can be hidden if need be. This site is also connected to Google Maps which makes it possible to teach Geography as well. It is easy to write/type or draw on the map. Thus it can also be used for giving directions from one place to another in one city. For a sample map, I created this one:

 
Exporting is disabled for maps, but a screenshot solves this problem.

However, what I used this tool for was just an English language lesson. But here I asked my students to match normal and strong adjectives by drawing lines.

The board then can be saved as an embeddable image. However, I just made a screenshot of the board again to save it as a JPEG file. This one is also a very nice and useful tool.

4. One of the extras is Twiddla. The reason why I put it into extras is that it doesn’t have many options for the free account. However, on the website it says that after registering, if you send an email to them from an .edu account (or similar), they will provide you with the Pro account for free, which is really nice. The tool is the only one among the ones I have had a look at that has a webconferencing (voice communication) option. It also has mathematical formulas and 2 different grid options. The board can be saved as an image and then re-used. Twiddla is really worth looking at.

5. The last one is Scribblar but I didn’t test it, because it seems that the free version doesn’t allow a lot of freedom. However, you might find it useful.

Free Captioning Tools

Captioning tools allow uploading images and adding speech bubbles to them. I think using this tool can add a lot of fun to lessons, especially when we want our learners to create and/or tell a story.

One option would be to find images on the internet that could somehow fit into one story and then ask learners in groups to add speech bubbles to each image. Then they could compare their stories and vote for the best one.

Another option could be to ask learners to bring their own digital photos (these could be holiday photos, family photos, etc). Learners could work with their peers’ photos and add speech bubbles to them.

I am sure each teacher will come up with more lesson ideas and I would love to hear/read your ideas.

Anyway, down to the tools. To test the tools I decided to use my own photo with a simple “Hello!” message.

The first tool I would like to talk about is Speechable.

The tool is free but requires registration. However, it takes only seconds to register and you can either upload an image from your computer or type in the URL to the image you want to be uploaded. When the image is uploaded you can doodle (draw/write) on it, add a speech bubble or just add a text. For doodling there is a great selection of colours, The text box can be moved around the image and placed anywhere you like and the writing can be in any colour. For speech bubbles you can choose among four types of bubbles, size and colour of text. After saving the image, you can go back to it to edit it. There doesn’t seem to be an embed code, but by right-clicking the image you can save it onto your computer. Options for sharing in social networking sites are all in place.

The second one is SuperLame and it is a lot of fun to use.

This tool doesn’t require registration and is free. The best thing about it is that it has an onboarding (guidance) system. A little arrow at  the top of the screen guides you through the process of creating the captions. It also has an option for adding what it calls ‘Sound FX’ and I just added all the possible sounds on offer to my image to let you see what you can have. The options for sharing here are either to email the image or to save it. But I don’t think this a big problem. As long as you can save it as an image, you can upload it wherever you like.

The third one is DIYDespair
This one also doesn’t require registration and is free. All the options are on the right-hand side of the image screen. However, this one doesn’t have the fancy options of the previous one. The title and the captions can only go under the image and not onto it. But still, I think, some older learners may find the tool enjoyable. All the available options can be seen on the image below. 
The fourth site is Motivator
The name is the opposite of the third (Motivator vs Demotivator) one but it functions in the same way. No registration is required and it is free to use. But there are too many adverts on the website, so I don’t think it is very good for children in case they click on the links advertised. The options are again next to the image screen and the captions can only be placed under the image not on it. In terms of sharing, it is again either email to a friend or download. 
And the last tool is PimPamPum. It doesn’t require registration and is free to use as all the other ones. However, I didn’t create an image with this one because to create a caption you need to add images from Flickr and as I don’t have any uploaded images on Flickr and didn’t want to use other people’s images, I decided to give it a miss. But as many of you may have accounts on Flickr, I thought I will share this one with you too. I found a sample caption for you to see what can be created with this tool. I like the fact that it allows creating slideshows which makes the storytelling even easier. I hope you like it too.  

Word Cloud Generators

Word clouds have become quite popular tools for visualizing texts. Words in the cloud are single word tags, that show how frequently a word has been used in a text which is useful for understanding main ideas or concepts. Words that are bigger in size and thickness are the ones that are frequently seen in a text.

When we hear word cloud we mainly think of Wordle, but there are many more word cloud generators that could be better or worse than Wordle. So why not give them a try?

1. Tagxedo 

The site doesn’t require registration. You start by typing/pasting in a URL, or a twitter/Del.icio.us ID, a keyword in the news or RSS. Then you choose the shape, layout, font and theme and click ‘submit’. After the word cloud has been generated, you see a panel with more editing choices. When you are happy with the cloud, you can save it as JPG or PNG in different sizes or simply share it on the web.

2. ABCya!

A nice tool which doesn’t require registration. You simply type or paste in the text and it creates a word cloud. This site doesn’t accept links to articles that you would like to create a word cloud of. There is no choice in shapes but layout, font and colour can be selected. The generated word cloud can be printed immediately or saved, but in this case don’t forget to add what format you want the image to be saved as. for example, I just add .jpg after the name of the file to save it as JPG image. If no format is specified, the image doesn’t open.

3. WordItOut

The site doesn’t require registration but when you have finished creating your word cloud it asks for an email address to which a link to your word cloud is sent. You just click on the link and can either download the image or share on various social networking sites. There doesn’t seem to be an embed code but a picture can be uploaded onto any site, so that doesn’t really matter.
Font, colours and size can be customized, but there is no choice of shapes and the layout of word tags is only horizontal.

4. TagCrowd

This tool doesn’t require registration either. Word clouds can be created by either typing/pasting in a text, pasting a URL or even uploading a file which is quite handy. However, the word cloud created cannot be customized: there is no choice in font, colour, layout or shape. All word tags are horizontal on white background and of different shades of blue. The word cloud can be saved as a PDF file, but not as a picture. It can be printed and HTML code is also provided (but it doesn’t embed an image, just a list of words), to add a sample image I had to make a screenshot of the cloud.

5. Tagul

You have to register first before you can start creating word clouds, but this is not a long process. You are sent a password which you can change after logging in.
To create a word cloud, you can either enter the text you want or the URL of the text you need..Next thing to do is to choose appearance, font, colours and click ‘Visualize”. When  the image appears, you can manually edit tags to get rid of articles, modal or auxiliray verbs, etc. After saving the changes, you need to click on ‘Grab and Share’. Here you can either download the image as a picture file, print, get the HTML code or the link.

6. ImageChef
ImageChef Word Mosaic - ImageChef.com
You don’t have to register with the website to be able to create word clouds. However, if you want to save your creations onto “My stuff”, you should. The site allows creation of not only word clouds but also of visual poetry, banners, sketchpads, etc. Before you start creating a word mosaic, you can choose a shape, a background and word colour and font. You need to type or paste in a text (but a small one, it doesn’t work with longer texts) and the word mosaic will be generated. You can choose the size of the image, you can share it on almost every social networking site, embed it and grab the link. By dragging the image onto your PC desktop, you can also save it as a picture file.

7. VocabGrabber

This is a very useful tool for language learners. It doesn’t require registration. All you have to do is paste in a text and click ‘Grab Vocabulary’. It creates a word cloud a screenshot of which can be seen on the left.

It also shows how many words have been found in the thesaurus and allows you to create a wordlist.

And the beauty of it is that the word cloud created is interactive. When you click on a word, the site creates a snapshot of a visual thesaurus for that word;

provides the definitions of the word;

and gives sample sentences with that word in them.

8. TagCloud

No registration required to use this site. You cannot type in a text, you only have to paste the URL to convert whatever is on the site into a word cloud. The result is a very nice looking flash word cloud that can be downloaded as a zip file. I have taken a screenshot of the cloud because it cannot be added to the blog as it is, i.e. a flash word cloud. It also provides an embed code, but it only comes up as a list of words as can be seen below.
learning resources blended approach face classroom instructional materials course time online addition used state blend students content higher

9. YouAreYourWords

The site doesn’t require registration. All you have to do is to upload a picture whcih you want to be the background of your word cloud, then paste the text and choose colours from a limited range. You can also choose the font. You can then share your word cloud and/or download it as image. The product looks nice, but I am not so sure about its use in education as it is a bit difficult to read the text.

10. Wordle

This site doesn’t require registration. The downside is the size of the embeded image – it is very small. To solve this problem, you can either click on ‘print’ and then save it as a PDF file, or, alternatively, you can make a screenshot of the image after saving it to the public gallery.
Another problem with this site is getting word tags using a link. If the site, the URL of which you have pasted into the bar, doesn’t have Atom or RSS feed, Wordle cannot create a cloud. However, pasting in a text usually bypasses this problem.
Font, size, colours and word tag layout are customizable, but the shape cannot be selected.

And finally, a Slideshare user vreed17 has added a presentation with 40 ideas for word cloud use in education.

Forty Interesting Ways To Use Wordle In The C from Vreed17

Credits:
Word Clouds generated using the article at PennState

Critical Review

This post is a summary of the video lecture on how to write a critical review by Professor Comer. I have also found a few links that could be useful for the assignment completion.

The stages in writing, which are recursive and overlapping, are:

  • Pre-drafting – deciding what you are going to write and thinking about the project
  • Drafting –  writing actively
  • Revision – re-thinking what you have to write
  • Editing/Proof-Reading – polishing
At pre-drafting stage, many things can be helpful. You may choose to do one of the following:
  • reading,
  • researching, 
  • note-taking,
  • analyzing,
  • outlining,
  • discussing with others
  • planning.
.Revision stage  includes re-organizing, deleting, adding, re-thinking; and editing is all about checking writing for spelling, punctuation and grammar mistakes, clarity and appropriate choice of vocabulary.
But before one starts even thinking about writing a critical review, one needs to read whatever they are supposed to be reviewing critically.  The first thing to do is just to read the text to enjoy it, and then go back to it second or third time and do marginal annotations. One may want to circle the main idea and underline the significant concepts. The latter may be different depending on what the purpose of the writing is. It may also be useful to note down the key terms in the text. While reading one should also marginally annotate the questions and emotions (anger, confusion, etc) that arise during the reading process. One should also read carefully to identify any contradictions or ambiguity there might be in what the writer says throughout the text.
Professor Comer showed an example of marginal annotation which looked like this
Screenshot of Prof Comer’s Video Tutorial
 Professor Comer also advises to pay attention to any questions posed by the writer because if the writer thought of asking that question, it was significant for him/her and readers should think about why that question was so significant to the writer. 
It may also be useful to talk about ideas with others to make it more generative and help yourself think more deeply about the text you are reading. The screenshot below shows what questions you may want to discuss
A Screenshot of a Video Tutorial explaining the discussion stage of the project.

Optional Reading
Writing a Critical Review, University of New South Wales
The Book Review or Article Critique, University of Toronto
Critical Reading Towards Critical Writing, University of Toronto
Active Reading, Open University UK
Active Reading Strategies, Princeton University
Writing a critical book review, Australian National University
Thompson Writing Program, Duke University
A Review of Online Learning
A Review of Alone Together
What makes a good critical review, Monash University

Wikis, blogs and playlists – DNLE Assignment 1

The tools that I decided to evaluate are wikis, blogs and playlists. I think these are most commonly used tools in education.
There are a few blogging sites: wordpress, blogger, edublogs, posterous, etc. All of these blogging sites offer free accounts as well as paid ones. Blogs are online diaries which can be used by educators and students to write their reflections upon what they have learnt or what they have taught and what could have been done differently. However, the use of blogs is not limited only to that. Posterous and Blogger are probably the easiest ones to set up but if one has trouble with it, there are a lot of video tutorials on Youtube which teachers and students can watch to overcome the problems in setting up the blog. As the tutorials are freely available online, I don’t think there is a need for special training. As the content of blogs is user-created, educators should first check it for credibility and accuracy before referring their learners to it.

Positive aspects:

  • easy to set up and use;

  • there is a lot of support available on the Web in the form of video and written tutorials;

  • they can be made public and private, which is a great fetaure in education;

  • they can improve the blogger’s writing skills.
Negative aspects which can be overcome and turned into positive ones:

  • pages on blogs are static and all the posts go to the home page;

  • posts and comments are not moderated before they are posted so there is always the risk that someone will post something inappropriate and only the administrator of the blog can delete the post, which means that offensive comments will be visible until the administrator sees them;

  • the teacher will have to decide when to delete a comment as this may be viewed as abuse of freedom of speech by the learners.
As with blogging sites, there are quite a few sites that offer free wiki spaces for educators. These are pbworks, wikispaces, wetpaint, etc. The content in wikis is also created by users but in contrast to blogs, wikis are mainly used for collaborative writing. Wikis are not very difficult to use and there are online video tutorials available. However, it may be a good idea to conduct a short training course on how to create a wiki for educators so that they are comfortable with creating one.
In terms of pricing and school logo inclusion, schools can choose the wikimatrix site to choose the wiki that is most appropriate to their needs.
Positive aspects:

  • great tools for collaborative writing;

  • page history is available so teachers can reverse a page back to previous times;

  • as many pages as needed can be created.
Negative aspects:

  • pages can be deleted by mistake;

  • when doing team writing, an individuals ideas are incorporated into one whole and success is down to the team not the individual, which may demotivate the individual who came up with most ideas;

  • if a not hosted wiki is chosen, then a special training is required for the person who will be responsible for wiki hosting and maintenance.
I cannot find many sites that offer playlist creation services. The only one that I know of is MentorMob which allows users to create playlists of subject-related video and articles and to create quizzes related to the content. The playlists and embeddable and can be embedded into a blog or a wiki that schools or educators run for their learners (a mentormob playlist). The tools is free and the support from the team is great. They respond to email within one day and are very helpful. However, educators have to watch the videos and read the articles they add to the playlist to make sure that content is reliable and accurate.
Positive aspects:

  • easy to create;

  • can be embedded into a blog or wiki;

  • learners can add content to it too.
Negative aspects:

  • quizzes sometimes are not saved the first attempt and created questions are not saved so users have to write them again;

  • playlists are collaborative and any user can add content to it which may not be reliable. However, this can be deleted;

  • if a playlist is long, users may become demotivated and may not want to go through it.
In my opinion, every digital tool has advantages and disadvantages. If handled with thought, the tools can add value to education.
This work was chosen to be among the best for the first week. 

Present.me

The first tool of the year that I wanted to discuss is Present.me which I heard of but didn’t use until this year’s EVO session. This tool was used for introduction by one of the moderators of Moodle for Teachers sessions and was embedded into the course Moodle. It looked really good and, most importantly, it built the online presence of the moderator so nicely. I find this crucial for an online course.

All you need to do to get started is either to create a new account or log in with your Facebook or Google account. Then you can choose the account type you like. See the screenshot below:

What I like about this tool is that it offers a few options for a presentation. See the screenshot below:
In order to be able to upload a video or audio file, you need to have a paid account. However, with the free account you can record your own audio or video using Present.me’s services which is even better, I think. To start preparing your presentation you need to click on ‘Make a new recording button” as shown in the screenshot below:
Then you need to upload your ready-made presentation either in PPT, PPTX, PDF or Google Docs format and then either make a video recording of your explanation or talk or audio recording. While recording your talk, all you need to do is to click the arrow at the bottom of the screen to move from a slide to a slide which does not interrupt the recording itself. 
I think the tools is really helpful not only for online classes but also for flipped classrooms or blended classes. Teachers of different subjects can use the tool to make their PowerPoint lessons or Word (converted into PDF) lessons into a more personal teaching session.

Top 10 Digital Tools of 2012

In this post I would like to list all the tools that I have used frequently this year. All the tools have been essential for me in teaching and my professional development. I have used some other tools, but a couple of times, so I will give those a miss in this post.

 1. Blogger – the best blogosphere for me. I am sure WordPress is also good but Blogger feels closer to me and I don’t feel like switching to WordPress. I have used this tool for reflections and school projects.

2. PBworks – a wiki platform for online collaboration which I have used a lot this year providing my students with a chance to practise writing Tasks 1 and 2 in preparation for their IELTS exam outside the classroom in their free time.

3. Moodle – a Course Management System (CMS) which I have used to run online and blended classes. Moodle is relatively easy to use and offers a lot of possibilities for teachers and their students. A great tool that has made my life a lot easier.

4. Prezi – an online presentation tool that I use a lot to introduce exam sections to my students, to teachers and to give presentations. Works fine online and offline. The best presentation tool for me so far.

5. Voxopop – a voice-based e-learning tool which has proven to be very useful for extra speaking practise for my learners, especially those preparing for exams.

6. Screenr – a web-based screen recorder which is very useful in any blended or online course that I run. Very often students enrolled in online/blended courses don’t understand how to use the platform or what is what there, so I just record a screencast/tutorial for them and embed it in their learning environment to make it easier for them to use the VLE and it helps. When they understand what everything in the platform is, they seem to get more involved in the course.

7. MentorMob – a great tool which allows creation of web-based playlists. I use this tool to aggregate videos and articles around subjects frequently encountered in IELTS. Before I asked my students to listen to video presentations and read articles about environment, ecology, technology, etc but they wouldn’t do it, so MentorMob offered the solution I needed. Now as soon as I see anything related to the topics in IELTS, I add it to a relevant MentorMob playlist. As I have embedded the playlists into the wiki of my IELTS students, all they have to do is to log into their wiki space and watch the videos or read the articles that they can see in the playlist.

8. Podomatic – a free podcasting tool. Sometimes it happens that some of my learners have problems with the listening tasks because they are fast or with unclear pronunciation, so I just record myself reading the script and letting them listen to the podcast first to boost their confidence, and then when they listen to the original recording, they understand it better and feel better about their skills.

9. Google Forms – a tool that helps me a lot in collecting feedback from my learners to improve on online, blended and face-to-face courses I teach. As the feedback is anonymous, they feel more confident about sharing their opinions, which helps me a lot in adding what they feel the course lacks or getting rid of something they feel is unnecessary for them.

10. Dropbox – a free tool that makes sharing easy. If there are tests or some reading tasks that I want my learners to see as soon as they turn their computers on, I add them into the folder in Dropbox. Sometimes it happens that I would like my learners to have a look at something before the class and if I upload the document to their learning environment, there is no guarantee that they will log into it before the lesson, but if it is in dropbox, then as soon as they turn on their computers, the file will upload and indicate that a file has been added to the folder which they can look at without logging into any site. When they have completed the task, I can see that the file has been updated and can check it.

These are the tools that I have been using a lot this year and I am sure will be using next year.

A Wiki for IELTS Exam-Takers

At the conference yesterday I was presenting the wiki that I have been running for a long time for my IELTS students. Apart from the wiki itself I also presented a few tools that I incorporated into the wiki and suggested some other alternatives to the tools that I use to my audience.

The wiki my students have is a closed one so that my learners don’t feel uncomfortable doing their writing assignments. It is linked to a talkgroup on Voxopop where they record their speaking tasks. Introduction to IELTS speaking section is an embedded Prezi presentation; the explanation of how to record on Voxopop is a screencast done with Screenr, the videos that I would like my students to watch and the tutorials about how to do the writing tasks are in a MentorMob playlist also embedded into the wiki. There are also some screenshots done with ScreenHunter to explain what the buttons on MentorMob are.

 When it comes to choosing which tool to use, I suppose, each one of us chooses the one that is more convenient for them. For example, I always use pbworks if I have to set up a wiki. I am not really sure why I prefer this site, because others do more or less the same. It may be a question of habit-formation or preference. The same is true for screencast tools: I always go with Screenr, but I know that other tools are just as good. This is the presentation of the tools and the wiki I gave yesterday. However, I would like to ask a question: Do you always use the same tools? Why/Why not?

.prezi-player { width: 550px; } .prezi-player-links { text-align: center; }

A School Project

In February a colleague of mine from Uruguay Claudia Carril sent me a message on Facebook asking me if it would be possible to start a project for 12-13-year-old learners from Uruguay and Armenia. I really liked the idea and agreed to it straight away. The only problem was that I didn’t have any young learner groups and asked one of the teachers at our centre to involve her students. Diana agreed happily and it was time to decide what we were going to do.

Initially Claudia suggested having a skype question/answer session , but then I offered to start a blog project and Claudia added the idea of creating a voxopop talkgroup and this is how it all started.

Claudia and I got on skype to discuss the details of the tasks and the length of the project. We thought 5 weeks was long enough for the project but we were a bit too ambitious with the timing: the tasks took a bit longer than expected but we didn’t mind that and the learners were happy for it to go on.

The project started on 09 April 2012 and for the first two weeks our teenagers were busy recording their introductions, listening to the introductions of their peers and recording their questions and answers to each other in the Voxopop talkgroup. After that the work moved onto the blog created for this project.

As the teenagers from both countries attended the lessons 3 times a week and some of them, at first, were having problems using the technology, Claudia and Diana asked them to script their replies on paper and typed/posted their learners’ replies to the blog themselves. Later some of the learners became really confident bloggers and started posting themselves. The screencast that I prepared and posted to the blog might have helped with this.

So I assume with this project we achieved many things: the learners were involved in a project which required to write, read, listen and speak in English because that was the only language they could communicate in; the teenage participants learnt how to use blogs and voice-based tools (Voxopop); they learnt about a culture they knew nothing about and they made friends who they still keep in touch on Facebook (which means they still have to communicate in English).

Claudia shared our blog with some other teachers and posted their comments on the blog. All the comments were positive. There may have been some mishaps but I will let you be the judge of that. Any comments are welcome!

Below is the Prezi that I prepared to present this project at a conference in Yerevan.

.prezi-player { width: 550px; } .prezi-player-links { text-align: center; }