Earlier today I spoke at the 2nd national training day for teachers and directors organised by FECEI, the Spanish Federation of Language Schools. Unfortunately, a few technological gremlins (I blame Windows!) prevented me from showing all the content I had planned to show: actual examples of pupils’ work, video testimonials and other videos which illustrate why I think school teachers must re-consider their often hysterical relationship with the internet. The missing content has been included in this post. I hope you find it useful.
Many schools are trying their hardest to keep their heads buried firmly in the sand while the educational landscape changes rapidly around them. Very often a false dichotomy is established between ICT and academic rigour; wordprecessors or pen and paper; classroom learning or home learning. But it’s never a question of either/or, it’s a question of weaving innovative practices into teaching and learning to enhance the education we pass on to our students. We must avoid getting mired in unhelpful dichotomies such as these and focus on what is best for our students. We must also never forget that educational technology is to education what a telescope is to astronomy… it’s just a means to an end, not then end in itself.
Introducing new vocabulary in an engaging way is one of the greatest challenges for language teachers. Remembering vocabulary is arguably the greatest challenge for language learners. That’s why I’m always on the look out for new and exciting ways to present vocabulary items to students in a memorable way.
Wordfoto is an iPhone and iPod app that allows you turn any photograph into a mosaic made up of your chosen words, which can then be used to reinforce vocabulary learning or other concepts, not just in languages, but in a variety of other subjects. Below are some examples of picture-mosaics I created to introduce the topic Healthy Living to my Year 10 class.
Once you have created your picture-mosaic, you can tweak the colour and fonts further by choosing from some preset themes. Pictures can be saved as .jpg from within the app.
If you don’t own an iPhone or an iPod – or if you don’t fancy spending £1.49 ($1.99) – you could consider Tagxedo, a browser based tool that allows you to achieve similar results for free. For a greater focus on the words, I’ve been using Wordle for years.
What do you think?
There is a lot of gold on the Internet but sometimes your students can spend a huge amount of time mining for it, searching and getting distracted by content that is not relevant to the task in hand. MentorMob allows teachers (and why not let your students be the teachers?) to focus the students’s attention by creating learning playlists of relevant content which can be enhanced by quizzes and comprehension exercises to test their knowledge as they go.
As you can see above, MentorMob playlists can be easily shared and even embedded on classroom blogs. In the above example of a learning playlist, I wanted my students to do some preparation work prior to watching a film – La piel que habito – which we would then discuss and critique. Rather than giving them a worksheet or just asking them to Google the film, I decided to try out the tool after Eric Pitt from MentorMob wrote to me last January to introduce the service.
This example is fairly simple – it only contains four steps – but notice how the students are directly taken to the websites I have deemed appropriate and how their attention is immediately drawn to the task at hand – in this case, vocabulary building and comprehension – by the quizzes that you can build within MentorMob.
My fondest memories of school are of the occasions on which I made stuff. When I think about what other aspects of my learning I enjoyed most, I always come back to the basic principle of creativity. Getting me involved in creative tasks that result in tangible outcomes was one of the ways my teachers ensured that I remained engaged and enjoyed the process of learning.
Working on a model of the solar system was a sure way of getting me to remember the planets (9 in those days) and our place in the universe. I was never naturally good at maths or physics, but making tracks and ramps down which to throw ball bearings gave me a much better understanding of Newtonian physics than any number of equations you might want to throw at me.
Technology today gives us the tools and the possibility to enjoy making stuff and exercise our pupil’s creativity in new ways: Now you can make stuff virtually as well as actually.
My classes and I exploit these new possibilities by regularly embarking on projects which require exercising creative skills and, in so doing, going far beyond the confines of the curriculum.
Triptico is an excellent resource for teachers to use in conjunction with their interactive whiteboards that currently contains around 20 different interactive resources – all of which can be easily edited, adapted and saved for later use.
Because Triptico is an application that runs in your computer (it runs on Adobe Air, so it’s compatible with both Macs and PCs), it can be used with any make and model of interactive whiteboard. This and the fact that it is free makes Triptico an absolute must have for every teacher wishing to make better use of technology in the classroom to engage students and foster classroom participation.
Once you have installed and launched the application, you can explore the different activities available by scrolling from left to right in the main screen or simply by clicking on favourites, which returns an very handy navigation pane.
From there you can easily navigate to any of the different interactive activity makers and you can then customise your own activities to suit your subject and lesson. As you can see, the resources on offer are often game-show inspired and range from (relatively) simple timers, image spinners and student selectors to games, quizzes and text analysis tools. The screenshots below give you an idea of the plethora of classroom-based interactive activities available: