It was a tremendous privilege to invited to present earlier this month at the Social Media Workshop 2012 organised by San Diego State University’s Language Acquisition Resource Center. My session was titled Glogster for the Language Classroom and the following notes are derived from it.
What is Glogster?
Glogster is an internet tool that allows users to create and share interactive posters composed of text, graphics, sound and videos, as in the example above. Glogster is a free tool but offers a premium service to teachers and schools, which is great for those who have concerns over privacy and security or would welcome the ability to generate, control and administer their students’ accounts.
Why use Glogster? The student’s perspective
Tools such as Glogster dovetail effortlessly with our students’ digital lifestyle. You may well remember fondly those fabled times without email and digital distractions when when every student was reputedly exemplary, but those who started secondary education in the past three years do not remember a world without social networking and internet interactivity. Our students are growing up in a multimedia world where they can communicate, learn and exercise their creativity online.
The ability to create products – tangible outcomes – that they can share with pride, using tools with which they are familiar, is undoubtedly a motivating factor for most students. However, it is not a magic bullet: using Glogster doesn’t guarantee students will do a good job. The best outcomes will only be achieved if both teacher and students assign the required level of importance and significance to the task.
Whenever students achieve poorly in their exercise books, we don’t blame the exercise books and decide to stop using them. Instead we tackle whatever problems led to such poor achievement in the first place and even apply sanctions if deemed necessary. The same principles should apply to using tools such as Glogster. The internet is not an excuse for poor teaching.
Why use Glogster? The teacher’s perspective
Every language teacher remembers the four skills: listening, reading, writing and speaking. As you can see, in the example above, there is evidence of all four skills being put to good use in the one piece of work. The student wrote a descriptive piece (writing) and recorded his own voice (speaking) so other students could read (reading) and listen to him and his chosen videos (listening).
Teachers can put together lessons that can be shared with pupils beyond the confines of the classroom in a variety of ways, but the real power of Glogster comes from getting your students to do the work, from allowing them to create their unique piece of work and from the peer assessing potential that can be exploited afterwards, once a class project has been completed.
And remember that you don’t necessarily have to do this project in the classroom. Because Glogster is an internet tool, it can be accessed from anywhere where there is an internet connection, so the completion of the project can easily be set for homework.
On to assessment then
We embed our glogs – that’s what these multimedia posters are called – in our languages blog. A blog is a social tool based on the principles that writers can easily update it and that readers can interact with the writer by leaving comments. However, students must be taught how to write good comments – years of schools’ refusal to engage with pupils using social media has meant that they have not learnt how to interact appropriately online. I believe it’s our job to teach them.
We use the two starts and a wish method, by which they are required to leave a comment outlining two things another student has done well and another thing she could improve. And we always model the comments, that is to say, we show them what good and bad comments look like so that they know within which parameters to operate. Dedicating some time to teaching students to write good, meaningful comments is essential if we are to establish purposeful learning conversations.
An advantage of using tools such as Glogster regularly is that you can eventually bypass this last step. My classes and I have been using Glogster since 2008, so my students remain familiar with the process and our high expectations from one year to the next.
Peer assessing in this way, using the commenting facility in blogs, becomes a very effective way for students to assess each other. In addition, the teacher can also see immediately if there are any areas or topics which may require further teacher intervention, thus informing future lesson planning and completing an assessment loop that was initiated by the setting of the task.
The potential of the internet for this kind of learning through social interaction is often overlooked and underrated. I hope this post goes a little way to demonstrating that harnessing social media in this way is actually both desirable and advantageous.
Please do not hesitate to share your opinion and your experiences of using Glogter or similar tools in the classroom. Your contribution is always welcome and very much appreciated.