Currently browsing Posts Tagged “modern languages”

Voki Classroom is nearly here

Voki has featured in my teaching for several years now, having proven itself a very valuable tool to encourage speaking in the foreign languages classroom.

Many other teachers have also realised that Voki can be very valuable, not only to encourage and motivate reluctant learners, but also as an assessment tool. As a result, the people at Voki, in consultation with their users and with specially designated Voki Ambassadors, are building a tool that is specifically designed for use in the classroom: Voki Classroom.

The main features of Voki Classroom will be:

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Storybird for Modern Foreign Languages

Mi familia, mis amigos y yo by LaurenceOb on Storybird
Storybird is a fantastic tool that allows its users to create and publish short stories.

Teachers can set up accounts for their pupils and organise them into classes, the work pupils produce is then shared among the members of the class and, crucially, it can now be published for the whole world to see.

But it wasn’t always thus. Storybird, in order to ensure content was kept to safe and appropriate standards, only allowed the publishing of Storybirds books that had been written in English. Therefore Storybird’s appeal for foreign language teachers was limited, as their stories and their pupils’ stories could not be made public.

However, in an exemplary display of engagement with customers, Storybird listened to foreign language teachers who were calling – on social networks like Twitter and in blogs like this one – for the ability to moderate their own pupils’ work and changed their policies so that teachers could moderate and publish their pupils’ stories.

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Effective and motivating learning with video tasks

Recording your own classroom videos can be an excellent way to assess your students at end of an unit if used in conjunction with a blog or VLE.

In this case, the video was recorded by Year 10 pupils (14 year olds) at the beginning of this Autumn Term with two aims in mind:

  1. These Year 10 pupils only started learning Spanish last year, so recording something like this straight after the Summer holidays was a good way to recall previously learned language
  2. I wanted to use this video in the assessing of Year 9 and Year 7 pupils ( 13 and 11 year olds respectively) who are starting Spanish ab initio

The Older Pupils Perspective

My Year 10 pupils were therefore tasked with the production of a video for the Department’s blog showcasing the series of questions and answers that beginner groups in Years 7 and 9 are required to learn by the end of our first unit of work.

The majority of my Year 10 pupils seized this opportunity to recap previous learning in a different, more creative and engaging way. Some pupils, however, were embarrassed by the prospect of appearing in a video. They opted not to be filmed but participated actively in both the scripting and filming of the piece.

The video was filmed with our little Flip Mino HD, which I thoroughly recommend for classroom use due to its quality and simplicity, and I then edited it using iMovie. A similar result can be achieved in Windows Movie Maker if you use a PC.

The whole process of devising and filming the video took around 20 minutes of a 40 minute lesson. The editing was done later on and took another 20 minutes or so.

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Voki for the classroom

Voki, the avatar creating website  that has proved so popular amongst language teachers, is being relaunched this term. I am very fortunate to be involved in this relaunch as a Voki Ambassador, one of a dozen or so educators around the world who are collaborating with Voki in New York to ensure a renewed focus on Education. So what can we expect?

Voki allows teachers and students to create speaking avatars in a fun, stimulating and engaging way. Although some initially find tools such as Voki of little educational value, upon closer inspection, teachers quickly realise that Voki allows students to express themselves on the internet in safety and confidently, as their real identities are hidden behind the avatar. Suddenly, with Voki, the shy become outspoken and the reticent assured.

As far as teaching languages is concerned, I have found throughout the years that using Voki helps my students improve their oral proficiency in the target language and that it’s often the shy one at the end of the classroom who comes up with the most impressive piece of spoken language.

The new Voki for Education is being officially relaunched to better cater for teachers and students. We can look forward to the following new features:

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Can you spot the difference? Picture based activities using Photoshop’s new features

Photoshop is a very powerful image editing and creation tool, but I had always felt any half decent editing was beyond me, never mind the indistinguishable-from-magic results some people seem to be able to come up with. Masking, burning, dodging and lassoing sounded – and still do – like words taken right out of the script of Zorro.

Mastering complex editing tools like Photoshop demanded that you dedicate a great deal of your time. But I’ve never had the time nor, obviously, the dedication.

Which is why I got so excited when Adobe announced the launch of Photoshop CS5, finally bringing professional-like editing to the technically challenged teacher, i.e. me. For example, take a quick look at how easy it is to remove parts of a picture non-destructively:

Needless to say I then went and bought Photoshop CS5, which, although it’s notoriously expensive software, Adobe – its makers – do have the decency to offer significant discounts to teachers and students.

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