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The Edmodo Experience

I really like experimenting with new technology in general and technology for educational purposes in particular, so when my new group of PABO students asked me to use Edmodo to communicate with them, I immediately created an account and a special page for this group. Since I have no access to their PABO Scholar site, this was their preferred platform. As this course was running at the same time as the TELL programme, it was a great opportunity to explore some new technology myself and check how it could be incorporated into my PABO course, in a ‘TELL-proof’ way.2451211

Edmodo is described by themselves as follows: “over 49 million teachers, students, and parents are connecting to collaborate on assignments, discover new resources, and more!” (retrieved from https://www.edmodo.com/, 26 March 2015). In short, it is a community website like Facebook, but specifically for educational purposes and with private groups which are only accessible by members admitted by the teachers. It enables you to create a virtual classroom of students, with whom you can communicate via notes, alerts, assignments, quizzes, polls and more. Of course I started off inviting my 12 students, a nice group size to experiment with, and uploading the materials they needed access to. That was easy! I also used the website to share information about scheduling and homework, which was also as easy as pie, so I tried for an assignment. I uploaded a video link and set the students a task – to watch it and reply by commenting on the video. Unfortunately I only got a question about the exam as a first reaction, but after I sent an alert (a special type of note), one student responded. What was really convenient about it, was that I knew if the students had actually watched the clip and what they thought of it. I got a clear overview of work handed in and I also discovered that I could grade the students who did and give them feedback and a reward in the form of a standard icon. Overall, I was quite surprised about this possibility.

I have not used all possibilities of Edmodo yet, but I do love the autonomy of it. I like the fact that I can control everything that happens in my virtual classroom, just like I can on this blog. I also like the versatility of it. I hope to get more opportunities to use Edmodo with other groups, so I can try out all its applications.

Finally, is it a TELL-proof tool, in other words: does it enable the teacher to apply the TELL models or at least one of them? I think the TPACK model applies most, as it refers to the teacher. If a teacher uses it well, for the proper tasks and taking pedagogy into consideration (e.g. can the individual feedback be viewed by all students in one group?), the teacher can definitely combine technology, pedagogy and content. Especially the example of the assignment, shows that if I give the students enough time and clear instructions to do the video assignment, give them a clear reason to watch (Pedagogy), make sure the content of the video is relevant for their study programme (Content) and use the technology to reach the students at home and thus save lecture time, I have a good example of TPACK in practice.


Moving to enhance language learning?

We all know that learning can be enhanced by adding an interactive element to your lesson, such as activating prior knowledge. We also know that music is good for the brain as it releases the substance endorphins which, in turn, triggers motivation and positive emotions. In TPR the enhancing interactive element is movement and this is where the initiators of The Walking Classroom have probably taken their idea from. I found out about this Walking Classroom through a video about an American teacher who started combining lesson time with outdoor activity. It was interesting to watch how she organised this, as she actually could not spare time in her programme for this, but really believed her pupils (and she!) could do with some outdoor time. In the successful Finnish educational system quite a lot of time is spent outdoors on a daily basis, which seems to re-energise the pupils for new learning activities all the time. There pupils have fifteen minutes break every hour, as you can read in this article.

The way the outdoor learning in this Walking Classroom project is organised, is by using portable audio players on which the students listen to recorded lessons by the teacher, while walking outdoorsstacked_logo_175x175_cropped together. Each lesson takes about 20 minutes and afterwards the students discuss (outdoors) what they have learned. This programme was so successful that it has been turned into podcasts for other teachers to use as well. You can watch the video with explanation and some footage of the walking classroom here. By googling the term Walking Classroom, you will find some more video material. For more information about the programme itself, go to http://www.thewalkingclassroom.org

This project reminded me of a podcast project I did about ten years ago. At that time we had very little teaching time, which inspired my colleague and me to use technology to teach more and to teach more efficiently. We each got money to buy seven devices (iPOD video 8 Gb) on which we uploaded videos, such as TV documentaries about relevant subjects for their study programme and some relevant podcasts. While travelling to university, our students would watch a programme and do some tasks on a worksheet, so that we had more classroom time to practise their productive skills. The students used the input they had watched to talk and write about. The technology enhanced the language learning by providing the students with better use of their travelling time.

Since almost all students now have a smart phone, this is something we can still apply in our teaching. Podcasts are still there and I listen to podcasts quite regularly, not to learn but to relax or use waiting or travelling time. One of my favourite podcasts is The BBC Food Programme. You can find all BBC podcasts here, in case you would like to give it a try. Of course our smart phones also enable us to watch (live) broadcasts, films and clips, so learning ‘any time anywhere’ is even more accessible now.

It gets even more exciting when we look at another application of learning combined with body movement, which is called embodied learning. At the iXperium today I saw a special type of untitledinteractive whiteboard, which enables a pupil to use body movement to manipulate things on the board using Kinect-technology. A good example in which this technique has been applied is this educational Kinect game, developed by a trainee: Superhelden Eiland. In the description of this technological application, you can read that using your body to learn more intensively and effectively can be supported by technology quite well. It would be great if one of our students would develop something similar for secondary school pupils with the help of our recently opened iXperium in Nijmegen. For me stopping by the iXperium today inspired me to look into some new applications for education again and I am happy to conclude that there are still plenty of discoveries to be made. I hope our field trip to iXperium Arnhem in a fortnight will have the same effect on our students.

Love in an elevator!

Look at this elevator pitch made by two students  – read the blogpost for the link to the clip. I look forward to seeing the other elevator pitches on clips. Who’s next?!

Technology Enhanced Language Learning and Teaching

Not really though.

This will be a very short entry but not less interesting, nor unimportant. I included the YouTube link to a video a classmate of mine (siggylauterslager@wordpress.com) and I created. It is supposed to be a so-called “elevator pitch” but I am not sure if any sane person would want to listen to us whilst listening to Aerosmith, in a lift. I wouldn’t but maybe You would. 🙂

An elevator pitch basically means that you get into the same lift/elevator as someone you want to pitch your idea to. It is an American practice and we all know their business buildings are ‘slightly’ taller than the ones we have in the Netherlands. So, you could step into a lift and pitch your idea to, for example, your boss, during their (and your!) trip to the 37th floor. This way they are forced to listen to whatever you have…

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Webinar – part 2

Webinars are a great way to learn together with other learners from any place in the world. They are also a good example of distance learning and effective use of technology. Before there was the Internet, people from all over the world were only able to attend the same lecture if they met at the same location at the same time. Now you can enjoy interesting lectures from the comfort of your own home or workplace, while still benefitting from the advantage of interaction and learning with others. The fact that other people are attending the session at the same time definitely adds value to the learning experience, as the participants do not only interact with the speaker via the chat function, buttons (raise hand, applaud, agree/disagree, and more) and sometimes chat, but also exchange tips and ideas amongst each other. At the same time you can see the speaker and the slides, clips, animations he uses. All together, I think a webinar is a highly stimulating and engaging learning environment, definitely worth a try if you have never participated in one.

Last week I attended a webinar that was all about TELL, a brilliant opportunity since I have recently started teaching a TELL course myself. In her 1,5 hour webinar, Aisha Walker discussed common reasons for using technology, common discourses of technology and language, and languages and techniques for language learning. Most of these topics are also covered in our TELL programme and it was great to see that Aisha referred to many familiar sources and people, such as Marc Prensky (digital natives and digital immigrants), David Chrystal (Internet Linguistics),  White and Le Cornu (digital residents and digital visitors). She also paid a lot of attention to digital literacies by showing examples of how multimodality is used more and more in digital texts. We used to read the news in a newspaper, hear it on the radio or watch it on TV, but nowadays we find out about the news every moment of the day through a mix of newsfeeds with e.g. audio/video clips, and live streamed updates on things going on at that moment. Some news is only shared on-line, news is more up-to-date and short. News can be followed through many different media, even through social media like Twitter, where it often reaches us faster than through more traditional channels.

Most participants in this webinar about TELL thought that the main reason to use technology in teaching is to motivate your learners. Aisha pointed out that it is not the technology itself that has intrinsic motivational properties, but the novelty and the variety it offers. These two definitely motivate your learners! It all comes down to the teacher to use technology (or not) to help different pedagogic approaches; you cannot rely on the technology to do this all by itself (I hope you are thinking TPACK now?). Technology can also help to make learners aware of the fact that they need English to be able to use technology, e.g. to understand instructions.

Some other things I heard or came to realise during the webinar I will not share in this blog post as I would like to use these for my lectures. Those who were there last week have already heard some of these thoughts, others may hear some more later. If you are interested in finding out more about this webinar, you can go to http://www.aishawalker.com/2015/02/24/language-skills-in-a-digital-age/ where you will find a Prezi in which Aisha Walker covers more or less the same topics as in the webinar. The handouts from the webinar can be found here: http://fdslive.oup.com/www.oup.com/elt/events/handouts/250215_WW_TechnologyEnhancedLanguageLearning.pdf

If, in the near future, you plan to attend a webinar, always check beforehand that you have access to the webinar room. Not every provider of webinars (often publishers) uses the same platform for their webinar. For Blackboard sessions, for instance, you first need to download a programme to attend. Sometimes you have to register beforehand to gain access and then you immediately receive confirmation and instruction on how to attend. It is not as complicated as it sounds here, but prepare before the start of the session to avoid disappointment. I look forward to reading your experience with a webinar if you manage to attend one during the course of our TELL programme.

Webinar – part I

This is just a short post to share the following interesting webinar with my followers – you can join it tomorrow! Yesterday in class I told you about an interesting webinar by Aisha Walker (see an article by her on the TELL Toolbox  – articles). I will share my findings about that one with you shortly, but now I simply would like to draw your attention to the following webinar tomorrow. If you have never attended a webinar and / or are interested in speaking and learning with digital icebreakers, you might want to try this one. It is yet another opportunity to try out technology (webinar) which you can blog about.

Shelly Sanchez Terrell
Get them speaking & learning with digital icebreakers

28 February 2015, 15:00 GMT

Get them speaking & learning with digital icebreakers

Transform your classes into collaborative supportive student communities with digital icebreakers. In this session, Shelly Terrell will share various digital and mobile icebreakers for young learners to adults. Join the fun and learn some quick activities that get students to take better selfies, collaborate on recreating images, and much more! 

For more information, go to this website. To take part, you need to go here. No advance registration is required, so you can always decide last-minute.

For now, have a nice weekend! I will be back soon with my thoughts on the webinar that I attended last Wednesday.

TELL webinar

One of my students pointed out this interesting and relevant OUP webinar on 25 (Dutch time 11.00-12.30) and 26 (Dutch time 16.30 – 18.00) February next – thank you for the tip!

This talk will look at some of the reasons for using technology in language learning and teaching with suggestions for some practical activities. In addition, participants will be encouraged to contribute their own ideas for using technology to enhance language teaching.

For anyone else who is interested in joining this webinar by Aisha Walker; for more information and registration go here: https://elt.oup.com/events/global/technology_enhanced_language_learning?cc=gb&selLanguage=en&mode=hub

Self Organised Learning Environments (SOLE)

Knowledge and skills can be obtained any time anywhere these days. So what does that mean for (the future of) schools? Will we keep teaching our students or will they learn for themselves?artikel_2012_mita2

I have been intrigued by self organised learning environments (SOLE) ever since I learned about Sugara Mitra’s Indian project with computers. He installed freely accessible computers in the slum of Kalkaji, New Delhi. The children discovered the computers in the wall of a shed and started to use them to learn and to teach each other, brilliant!

More information about the ‘Hole-in-the-wall’ project can be found here. Video footage of the first ‘Hole-in-the-wall’ project can be found here.

In this ‘Hole in the wall’ project the learners organise their learning themselves through discovery and sharing. In the Netherlands there are teachers at some schools who organise their learning environment completely differently themselves, as was clearly shown in this great documentary which was broadcast last week (link).567948 If you missed it, you should watch it now. It links back to much of the theory discussed in TEFL6 by showing how school can deal with mixed ability, activating methodology, cooperative learning, adaptive teaching, learner-centered tasks, TBL and much more (handy for those who need to do a re-sit). The documentary is not really about technology enhanced language learning, although there are some references to for example blended learning, but it does make you think about new ways of learning and teaching.

One more link I would like to share which is all about technology is pay attention about digital learners. This video was made in 2007, but is still relevant for many teachers and may give you some ideas as to why and how to implement the use of technology in your teaching.

Adaptive learning?

Watching a clip on the future of learning.

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Is this how adaptive learning works?

I am glad to hear that more people think that simply ‘scanning’ students and providing them with the missing knowledge, as this picture from the clip demonstrates, is not how adaptive learning should be applied. Fortunately, the clip mentions many more elements to bear in mind when thinking about learning in the future. I think it is worth watching this clip (7.49 min.).

Oxford blues

While the studIMG_1834ents are enjoying themselves on their study trip to Oxford, we continue working on their new TELL course. We need to finalise the reader and study guide, so they will be ready in timeIMG_1818 for the new period. What I think is quite difficult in this case is making sure all the latest new information that my colleague and I have gathered is included in the reader. We have been working on this course for quite some time now and I hope we will not forget anything. But hey, we can always share this information via our blogs or in class, so not to worry for now!