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.
Web applications are fun for both teachers and students, but often both teachers and students can become too preoccupied with the tool itself and forget what its purpose ought to be: to support teaching and learning. Here’s a little guide to using three fantastic web applications successfully and effectively.
In fact, time wasting and lack of academic rigour are two criticism often levelled at the use of web applications in the classroom. However, just like any other tool, when used appropriately, these web applications will soon prove their worth to you and your students as an effective learning tool and I am certain they will become an essential part of your schemes of work.
Whilst the tool may change the principles remain the same. Let’s look at how to plan a series of lessons before we look at each of the tools in more detail, but first a note of caution:
Not a magic bullet
I use web applications regularly. Regularly does not mean so often that your class gets bored of them. To me regularly means once or twice every half term – roughly 6 weeks. I also vary the web application so that any single class uses a variety of tools throughout the academic year. In my experience, overusing any of the tools below may lead to your students quickly becoming weary of any particular tool, as the novelty factor wears off and their interest and engagement wanes. In order to stop the tool itself becoming an obstacle to successful learning, how you plan and deliver the series of lessons leading up to actually using the tool is therefore essential.
Approximately once every half term I will plan a series of lessons culminating in the use of one of these web applications. I generally follow this pattern:
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:
Earlier this year, a camera crew from Teachers TV and the sadly soon to be defunct Becta came to Nottingham High School to film my classes in Years 9, 10 and 11 using web applications to help them practise their spoken foreign language skills. The result was premiered today on the Teachers TV website and will be broadcast on TV next week.
Also in the video, Fiona Hilton from Kingstone School in Barnsley uses the internet to stimulate her students’ interest in French life and language. She downloads French language videos to trigger vocabulary work with her Year 10 class, encourages them to use the internet for research, and use an inter-school social network to communicate with French-speaking students around the world.
Chris Harte, from Cramlington Learning Village uses Audacity to encourage students’ self-assessment skills with Year 9 group who are practicing their spoken French by creating an audio-visual presentation about Haiti.
This presentation, delivered to a group of Heads of Modern Foreign Language and titled The Effective use of Internet Resources, was meant to demystify the use of internet tools, so-called Web 2.0, in the classroom context.
Many teachers think/fear that they are going to be out of their depths and/or that it’s going to be require an inordinate amount of effort on their parts. With this presentation, I set out to demonstrate:
b) how, given our pupils’ natural predisposition to use ICT, using internet tools can effectively improve the the teaching and learning of MFL by increasing motivation, engagement and, therefore, achievement;
c) how the work is mainly carried out by students on their home or school computers, releasing the teacher to facilitate and oversee the process, as well as to assess the results.