August 25, 2015

Why aren't you Tripppin yet?



I have the pleasure to introduce a guest post by a very talented Brazilian teacherpreneur, Mau Buchler. I met Maurício during my talk at the Braztesol Technology Seminar last July and was amazed to learn about his website and English course material "TRIPPPIN" (yes, with 3 ps). He has brilliantly put together three things nearly everyone loves: travelling, culture and games.

I take the opportunity to voice my admiration to his creativity and initiative.



"I remember the first English class I ever taught.
I had no experience and no training whatsoever, but my employers saw no reason why I shouldn’t start immediately.
It was a private class for one of the directors of Banco Santos. I was 18 years old at the time, and I remember being ushered into the man’s impossibly huge office. He sat behind an enormous desk, and the morning sun was shining through the wall-to-wall window behind him. He looked like some kind of corporate sun-god, who gazed down at me and asked in disbelief:
“YOU are my new teacher?”
I managed to utter a brief: “Yes.”
He snorted: “Well kid… have a seat then.”
I sat down and asked him what he was doing. He started explaining and I started correcting his grammar, which he quite enjoyed.
He went on about investment funds, stocks, bonds, assets and liabilities. I had no idea what he was talking about, so I asked questions. All I did was ask questions, listen to him explain and correct his mistakes. It was fun, he was happy, and we had several good classes together, but this technique couldn’t last forever.
Conversation classes are great, but sometimes people aren’t in a talkative mood (and some people just aren’t the talkative type). Plus, if you don’t follow or create a learning structure, progress may not be as expected, so after a while I decided to start using the textbook and CD that had been supplied to me, and forced upon him.
He hated it.
He hated the texts, the audio prompts, the exercises. Everything.
He said they were out of touch with reality, fake and therefore: useless.
I agreed, and looked for other books, but found none that could live up to our standards of “reality” because… well, the world is constantly changing, and reality changes with it. It’s difficult for books to keep up. Unfortunately, that’s the nature of books. Once they’re printed, they’re done. They can’t be easily updated.
As I couldn’t find what I wanted, I started creating specific material for my student.
Now, keep in mind that this was 1991 and the internet wasn’t really working yet, so specific material was hard to find. Basically, I worked with texts from magazines, and movie clips.
And by then, I already had several other students of different ages, levels and backgrounds, so making specific material for each of them was becoming a full-time job. I started thinking: “How can I supply personal, relevant material to EVERYONE?
EVERYONE is a lot of people, but if you’re going to make material, why not make it for everyone in the world that wants to learn English? What’s the unifying thread? What does everyone like?
Then it hit me: Travel and fun. Who doesn’t like travelling and having fun? 

I won’t bore you by detailing the years of research and work that followed, but it’s enough to say that after 2 decades of building prototypes and teaching English around the world, I developed

http://www.tripppin.com/



Tripppin is an English course material in the shape of a game and a TV series that covers the world. It extends the school/teachers’ influence beyond the classroom. You can use it as main course material or as a supplement. You can use it in classrooms, online classes and computer labs. Students can use it independently, wherever they are, on their tablets, computers and smartphones.






Tripping was made by an English teacher for English teachers and schools. Next time, I’ll show you how to use it in class, step by step, but I do believe that the best way for teachers to get familiarized with it is to use it as a student.
That’s why we’re giving away VIP memberships to teachers. All you have to do is

  1. Leave a comment below, so we know who you are.
  2. Sign up free at www.tripppin.com
  3. Go Tripppin!"


In a few weeks, Mau Buchler will be writing a follow up post explaining how he uses the website with his own students. So, keep an eye on LIFE FEAST to learn more. 


Have you gone Tripppin yet? I have. :)











August 13, 2015

Google Keep in the classroom and in life



One of the Google tools I use the most on my cell phone is GOOGLE KEEP. Funny enough, it's one of the least known Google apps. The objective of this post is to share some of the ways I use Google Keep in my personal life and how we can use it with students.

Google Keep is an app (for androids and IOS) and website which can be accessed from your cell phone or any laptop, once you log into your google account.


With GOOGLE KEEP you can create different kinds of notes: a text, a list, record your voice or take a photo. These notes can be shared with others so that they can collaborate with you. You can also add a note as a reminder which will pop up when you need it (based on time or location). Imagine getting to the supermaket and your shopping list popping up, or getting to the library and the names of the books you need to borrow come up on the screen.


IN LIFE, I use it to keep myself organized:

  • I take photos of flight reservation info for quick access when I travel. I believe it's much faster to find it instead of storing the photo on an email or  among so many other photos in my phone gallery.
  • I make shopping lists and  lists of chores I need to get done on a daily basis.
  • I register some WIFI passwords (from my mom's house, from ours, from my sister-in-law's). It's very useful when we change devices or for guests. It has been a lifesaver.
  • I register addresses I will need soon (hotel addresses).
  • In other words, instead of using the notetaking app, I use Google Keep for any note I need to keep.
What I haven't used yet:
  • Record my ideas with my voice which is then transcribed automatically. It's great for those moments when you have an awesome idea for an article.
  • Share a list with other people while planning an event and see when things are ticked and done.
  • My notes are usually white, but as we can add colors to them, they might be easier to find if we adopt a color system.
  • Used reminders based on location. 

How can we use it with students?


  • Students can use it to store photos they take of boards in class and use tags to organize them according to subjects.
  • Students can make lists of homework they need to get done and create reminders.
  • They can brainstorm topics for class sharing a list with classmates.
  • When doing group work and deciding who is doing what, they can make a list which is shared and everyone can see when each item is ticked and things are done.
  • Students can create study notes about any subject so that they can revise quickly before a test.
For more reading on GOOGLE KEEP and its features:













April 26, 2015

Chinese Whisper with Whatsapp




The more I use Whatsapp in class, the more I realize how rich this tool is.

Last week, I tried a very simple activity with my Basic Students who had just learned how to express themselves in the Past.

Have you ever played Chinese Whisper with your students? It is an activity where Student A whispers a message to Student B who then tries to whisper the same message to Student C, so on and so forth. Or another one where the first student says "Last weekend, I went to the shopping centre", then the next student repeats the first sentence and adds one more sentence? We adapted these activities using the recording feature of Whatsapp.

These are the steps we followed:


1. I recorded the first sentence saying "Last weekend, I went to the cinema."
2. Then, I asked students to make their recordings for homework. Before they made their recordings, they would have to listen to the last recording, repeat all the sentences and add one more.

It was amazing how fast they started making their recordings as they knew the later they did it, the longer their sentence would be.

3. In the following class, I asked all the students to get their cell phones ( the ones who didn't have a device, sat with someone who had one) and listen to the last recording, which was the longest one, in order to write it down. It was great to see how involved they were listening to the sentences, repeating them, until they were able to write everything down. Similarly to Chinese Whisper, the last student to record the sentences ended up getting a few words wrong as he misunderstood what the previous student had said. As a result, students had to go back and listen to previous recordings to see where the mistake started. We heard quite a few laughs.

4. After most students had written all the sentences down, I asked them to dictate the sentences to me as I wrote them on the board. I used the opportunity to correct mistakes and practice the right pronunciation of words and verbs in the past.

ANALYZING THE ACTIVITY:

In the initial phase of the activity, students had to create their own sentences with verbs in the past. As more sentences were used, they had to think of different verbs and their collocations to make new sentences. They needed to take special care pronouncing the sentences clearly so that their classmates would understand their sentence and continue the game. The longer the sentence became, it was necessary for them to write the words down in order to make the recording. Step 3 was a great way to practice listening and writing again. In a way, it was a dictation created by students themselves. During the feedback moment, I tried to focus on the right forms of the verbs they had chosen and their collocations.














April 10, 2015

Reading Collaboratively with Point





This post has the objective to share a tool I've learned about today: POINT.
http://www.getpoint.co/

Point is a Google Chrome Plugin which allows you to quickly share links to websites and videos with other people. And how does it work? You install the plugin to your Google browser, then every time you want to share a link with someone, press the key @ on your keyboard and a small box pops up prompting you to choose the person or email to share it with.

Check the video below with a demonstration.



What I liked about it is the possibility to work collaboratively. By sending the link to someone, whether they are online or not, we can use the chat box which pops up to develop a conversation and reflect together. You can highlight the parts of the text you find relevant and discuss about it as I did with a colleague, Juliana Gense, tonight (we are reading in English but discussing in Portuguese).

You can share and discuss about articles and blog posts:



You can share and discuss about Youtube videos:



And even share and discuss about pdf files which have been embedded to https://www.scribd.com/



Another amazing feature is the possibility to share the whole chat with someone else via email. And how to do that? After finishing a chat, you click the key @ again and type the email. This would be perfect for sharing a chat with the teacher. The screenshot below is an example of what the chat thread would look like after being sent by email.



How can we use Point with students?

Brainstorming uses with Juliana, we imagined some possibilities:

  • Have a whole group of students discuss about an article synchronously or asynchronously.
  • Divide EFL students in trios and have them get together synchronously to discuss about texts or explore new vocabulary in a text. Then, when they finish the task, the can send the whole chat to the teacher.
  • Invite students to discuss about a video they watch together.
  • Invite undergraduates or post graduates to analyze academic papers and discuss about the parts they find relevant, then email the chat to their professor or tutor .











January 27, 2015

Guest Post: Calling an old friend to our classes


I have the great pleasure to have Aysegul Kaban write a guest post about some activities she has tried with her own students. I love reading about real life examples of classroom activities, what about you?




There are many online tools for generating QR codes which you can then use in the classroom. All of these different types of information can be stored in a code: A short piece of text, Website address, Email address, URL… 

Why not try some of these examples? 

Most Smartphones will have a barcode scanner as an app which will read QR codes. I love integrating technology to my classes and I teach English as a foreign language to young adults in İstanbul, Turkey.

This lesson plan was created to revise Past Simple, Present Perfect Simple, and Present Perfect Continuous.

I asked questions about QR codes: E.g. Have you ever seen this? Have you ever used QR code? If yes, where and when did you use it? How do we use QR codes? After getting the answers, I talked about the activity and showed some QR codes and asked the students to solve the mystery of the QR codes on the board.



Although most students had seen QR codes, none of the students were sure about QR codes. Only one of them had a QR code reader on his smartphone. I asked the students to download the free QR code reader. They enjoyed when they first scanned the QR code and asked some other codes to scan.


After doing the first trial, I asked the students to scan the code on the board and do the exercise with their partners. They did the first activity. After 4 minutes, I gave the correct information to the students. Some pairs answered all questions correctly and they felt happy because they realized they knew some information about their teacher’s personal life.


Now that the Students had seen an example, I divided the class into groups of 3 (or 4) and gave each group a self-prepared handout about basic rules of simple past, present perfect and present perfect continuous. I told the students that this was supposed to be a group contest. The winning group of the contest received a surprise at the end. I said I would record the score on the board.



I gave students a handout lacking of example sentences and told students to fill in the gaps. Students started a treasure hunt in the class and when they found they wrote it on the handout. While Students were doing the activity, I observed the groups. I checked answers by asking each group and recorded the score.


You can use QR Codes for many other purposes. Here are some tips for you!

1. You are the best forget the rest badges!

Everybody loves awards. Why don’t we give QR code awards to our students when they achieve something great? Award prizes by having students scan a code leading to an animation or badge. When they accomplish a test on Present Perfect continuous, they can get a special code that takes them to a badge for Present Perfect Continuous Guru!

2. Discovery Stations

You are going to cover a new reading but you want to try something different. Breaking the routine is always good for us and our students. You can put codes in different areas of the class that will take students to different online activities, videos or content. You can use it as a warmup activity or reading activity.

3. Answer Fortuneteller

Have students check their answers by scanning the QR code after completing a test or assignment. As a teacher, you can visually confirm when students are checking their work and can also check in to see how they are doing. Creating QR codes for difficult topics and attaching them to students’ homework. If they get stuck, they can scan the code and watch a video of you working through the problem step-by-step.

4. Provide Extension Assignments

A great way to provide optional activities for students who want to improve is to simply put the code on the class assignment and let them follow it to the extension activity or question. It won't take up much space, and might facilitate a little excitement about the extension assignment. You can give URL of a beautiful song with present perfect continuous tense as a warming activity as a homework.




5. Compile Research

Discovering new things is always exciting and by QR codes we give a chance to discover. You can ask students to make a research about their favorite star and have students create codes linking to start discovered during research. These could be posted in class wikis on a specific topic, or on a wall in the classroom. It helps give them ownership of the research process and literally creates "walls that talk."

Bio:
Aysegul Liman Kaban works as an English Instructor at Bahçeşehir University. She has finished her BA in TEFL and MA in Interpersonal Communication at Marmara University with distinction. She has been recognized by various entities, such as the ELT BLOGATHON Awards, The German National Agency Teacher Trainer Scholarship, and IELTS Morgan Terry Memorial Scholarship 2013 as an innovative, technology integrated project creator. She has been giving talks and workshops at international and national conferences, especially focusing on Mobile Learning, Google Apps, E-portpholio, digital learning apps. She is also Newsletter Editor of IATEFL TEASIG. She shares regularly on eslaction.wordpress.com and on Twitter (@Aysegul_Kaban).

January 23, 2015

The importance of Social Presence in Online Courses


People frequently criticize the online environment of being cold. They say that during online courses they feel lonely and demotivated to learn.

And why is that?

Studies about Social Presence might help us understand about an important aspect in online courses.



What is Social Presence?

According to Menezes (2014), Social Presence is how people perceive their own presence and the presence of others in a virtual interaction and the willingness to build an interpersonal relationship in order to learn collaboratively.

To me, Social Presence depends a lot on how participants choose to take part in an online course. Of course, it also depends on the opportunities of interaction provided during the course.

Let's compare two students:


Student A studies alone. He uses books and the internet to build knowledge.

Student B is taking a course with other students. Besides learning via the material suggested by his teacher, he likes exchanging ideas and discussing about what he's been learning with his classmates.

In the virtual world we can have a similar situation. We can choose to act like Student A, focussing on developing tasks on our own or we can behave like Student B making use of the opportunity to work with the group exchanging ideas and making connections.

We should bear in mind three kinds of course content we can learn from:
- The content proposed by the teacher.
- The content suggested by participants.
- The content built by participants during the course.

When we study alone during an online course, we might be missing the opportunity to learn more with one another.

Here are few tips on how to develop your presence during online courses:




REFERENCE:

MENEZES, A. M. C. A vivência da presença social: histórias de um curso online para professores de Inglês. (2014) M.A. Thesis. 186 p. Universidade Federal de Uberlândia. http://goo.gl/kNyAck

SUGGESTED READINGS:

REVISTA TECNOLOGIA EDUCACIONAL
ISSN 0102-5503 - Ano LI - 200
Janeiro / Março - 2013
Revista da Associação Brasileira de Tecnologia Educacional v. 31 

http://www.academia.edu/3764280/Revista_abt_2013_artigo_p_62


GARRISON, D. (2006)Online Collaboration Principles. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks. Vol. 10, No. 1, p. 25-34. Disponível em <http://tinyurl.com/6r9bjwz >, acesso em 16/04/12.

GUNAWARDENA, C. N. (1995)Social presence theory and implications for interaction and collaborative learning in computer conferences. International Journal of Educational Telecommunications, p. 147-166.