crowd-sourcing: technology in your classroom

An assortment of technology
 

This week I’m tutoring on an online teacher development course discussing the use of technology in the ELT classroom. To kick off we’re exchanging some information about our current or recent teaching contexts.  All the participants are teaching, or have recently been teaching, in low-tech classrooms so I’ve started the first forum by sharing some of my experiences in a similar context.  Through no fault of their own, the group has diminished in size over the course of the last few weeks and, in order to bring some more depth and variety to our discussions, I’m sharing my forum post here in the hope that you’ll be able to help us out and add some thoughts about your teaching context, whether it be similar or different. The more voices we have, the better!

So, here’s my contribution:

My most recent face-to-face classes were in a traditional classroom in a local high school.  The desks were arranged in fixed rows. We had a blackboard and chalk and no other technology.  There was no projector or smartboard. I would bring my laptop to class to share audio, videos and images. I also used my, and the students’, mobile phones which had 3G connections to the internet.  Here are three ways technology figured, or was used, in our classes.

1 Talking tech

This may sound like cheating, but I think the link is strong enough to be worth including, and it extends beyond the classroom and supports the students if/when they’re accessing information in English on the internet.

So, basically I bring in articles and texts about technology, and/or taken from sites I think the students might be interested in to share and discuss in class.  For example I built a jigsaw reading task based on two infographics. (You can see the originals here and here – in both cases I only used the first few sections – the ones that would fit on an A4 sheet of paper!) Both show statistics about gaming and gamers, but the statistics are different.  Once the students had discovered the discrepancies we looked more closely at the two texts and why the stats were different. We looked at where they were taken from, discussed who might have briefed them and discussed how we need to be critical in evaluating information presented to us on the internet (as we would be in a newspaper or any other text).

[* I really feel I should name-check Graham Stanley here as he inspired me to bring gaming into my non-tech classroom after an inspiring session at TESOL Spain.]

In another lesson with the same group (this one from some time ago!) we talked about the death of Steve Jobs and his contribution to the digital revolution.  We looked at some of the tributes online (including this icon and its origins). As homework I asked them to search for quotes by Steve Jobs (it was on the day after his death and the internet was flooded with them) and to choose one or two favourites to share in the next class.  They all did the homework (which was a first!) but they hadn’t all given it equal thought. I asked them all to write their quotes on the board and then to explain why they’d chosen them. Some were appropriate and clear and almost needed no explaining, though the students were keen to talk about why they’d chosen them. Others were obscure, unclear or just random chunks of text.  It helped me set a benchmark for future out of class internet-based homework. It worked. If they did the homework, they did it well, knowing they’d have to justify or explain their choices.

2 Google searches, photo sharing and using songs

Google searches can range from a simple image search to clarify a piece of vocabulary (e.g. a magpie when reading a text about superstitions)  to reading races or simple web quests where students have a list of questions and compete to be the first to answer them all.  Photo sharing is often a follow-up for a homework task. I will share a photo in class (usually on the screen of my laptop with all the class crowding around) and then the students take a similar photo as their homework in order to then share the photos on their phones in the next class.  I’ve sometimes used my phone or laptop to listen to songs online in the classroom – with the students then playing songs on their own phones. I’ve also used the phones to introduce students to sites like lyrics training which some of them really get into and use at home.

3 Voice recording

This is a great add-on for my younger teen speaking classes.  It may well be a gimmick, but I’ve found that asking my students to record themselves performing a role play on their own mobile phones adds an extra layer of motivation.  They up their game, they focus more on the task and produce far more interesting (and accurate) language.  I think the motivation factor in itself is justification enough for using the mobiles, but the fact that they can listen  to their recordings, hear their own voices, and slowly be trained to assess their own speaking and work on improving it is a really plus.

If you’ve got the time to add a few thoughts (long or short!) on the use of technology in your teaching context, that would really help us! Please add them here in the comments.  Thank you   :)

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27 Responses to crowd-sourcing: technology in your classroom

  1. mikecorea says:

    Nice post! Nice idea.

    I guess have a few things to share.

    1) I love to use the camera on my cell phone to snap a photo of the board. This has proven very helpful many times, especially when I wanted to remember emerged language that I didn’t manage to write down!

    2) You mentioned voice recording. I have used Audacity quite often for this. I like the starting and stopping as well as editing options. At one point I gave students a chance to rehearse and collect feedback on what they were going to say so that what was recorded was basically perfect.
    (I also record limited edition mp3 files of me reading stuff)

    3) I have recently gotten back into using wiki pages with students. This term it has pretty much been a place for me to post things but in the past it was a nice collaborative space and a digital extension of what we did in class.

    4) I also use twitter and Facebook to ask questions about language or common knowledge that came up in class. For example I asked (mostly teacher) friends on twitter to make a sentence using the word “gloomy” and about 10 people responded. Their responses matched very well with my gut feeling (which was that people would use it talk about weather or outlooks but actually not feelings so much). I also ask questions to my (mostly non-teacher) friends on Facebook what a certain sentence means to them or questions about what % of Americans would know a certain thing.

    Have fun!

    • Ceri Jones says:

      Thanks Mike :)
      I particularly like the crowd-sourcing ideas (of course!).
      What’s your classroom like in terms of tech? I’m guessing pretty high up the scale, but is that just my stereotyped view of a connected Korea?
      Ceri

      • mikecorea says:

        The twitter crowdsourcing is fun!

        (I forgot to mention that I also use corpora with my students from time to time and usually make sure to introduce some tools at the start and encourage SS to use corpora on their own)

        Sometimes stereotypes are correct. My classrooms are pretty well connected I think.
        (At my uni) All the rooms I use have at least one computer hooked up to the internet and attached to a projector that is very easy to use. Most of the rooms have wifi that I can access (and an even larger percentage have wifi students can access).
        A huge % of my students have smartphones (almost 90% at a guess) and many have ipads or ipad type things and there are many laptop/notebook computers around. So, yeah pretty connected. My students often do a lot on their phones (recording, dictionaries, quick research).

        Thanks for the chance to see how much tech I use!
        (I usually label myself as not such a techy teacher)

      • Ceri Jones says:

        Thanks again :)
        good to get a peek into your classrooms
        and yes, labels, interesting things!

  2. simon says:

    i’ve been playing around with routines recently in my class of 9/10 yr old. i wanted to use the thing sitting in the corner of the room with flashing lights and all that… the computer and projector, that’s the one. i also want routines to encourage the students to read, to improve their intonation and connected speech, to recycle and preview material and give them some room to experiment with language as well as provide cover for the weaker stusents who are reticent speakers. i adapted an idea from chris roland where his students read short stories and scenes with captivating images. i wanted to make it interactive(ish), hence the question and answer format.

    i’ve got a powerpoint series with loads of questions that they’ve covered from the book and beyond, there’s no interesting images as i want them to focus on the language (and don’t feel that i have time to search for groovy images). they read the questions off the powerpoint slide (one slide, one question) with me helping with phonological issues, i then ask them to think of an answer and on the count of three ask them all to say their answers in unison.

    it’s kind of fun and it’s a very quick way to review and preview langauge studied and you can slow bits down or speed things us as you like, you can develop bits or just skim over them as the students need/want and it’s really easy to change the questions. some students do experiment with the language (i try to encourage it) and others stick with the safe stuff.

    it’s not without it’s drawbacks though. correction is of course tricky with all the students shouting out thier answers at the same time and perhaps not for the feint-hearted! and also it’s important to change the questions as students do get bored with the same qus and the same format and i do think images would help keep it more interesting and surprising. it worked really well once a week for about 6 weeks and then it needed a rest. this routine has had a month or so “off”, we’re rapidly approaching the end of the year. i think i’ll give it another go, this time with images.

    i hope this is helpful and sort of what you’re after. i’m no techy wizard and can’t upload the file of qus. if you want them feel free to get in touch!

    • Ceri Jones says:

      Thanks, Si – and in response to your fb comment – you, wordy? never! ;)

      Just as a footnote, Simon works with young learners in a classroom that has a projector and wifi connection.

  3. Hi Ceri,

    My situation is pretty like the one you described. Our school is still quite old-fashioned in that it doesn’t have any equipment apart from CD players, a TV and DVD player (which to be honest is hardly used) and whatever we choose to bring in ourselves. We still use chalk boards too!

    However, as you may know, I am always trying to incorporate bits of technology into my lessons, having discovered many different tools over the past couple of years due to my involvement in EVO and the Twitterverse.

    As we don’t have whiteboards or projectors, I take my laptop into class when I want to show students something visual such as a video or photographs. However, I have been quite lazy lately about carrying my laptop around, and have been using my mobile phone a lot more. I use Evernote for my lesson plans which I also have installed on my phone. This means that I don’t need my laptop every day. I also have Dropbox on my phone, so I can consult documents I have including materials I had previously written, without having to print out the page. I have also used my phone to record students with the voice recorder and I often take pictures during class, whether or not I actually do anything with those pictures later.

    I have also been using Edmodo as a virtual learning environment with my adult learners. You can find out more in a blogpost I wrote yesterday (talk about good timing!) http://inspireyourlearners.blogspot.com.es/2013/05/using-edmodo-as-virtual-learning.html

    Another thing I use are wikis. I used one over the last two years for a group that didn’t use a course book (my famous Five Six Seven group). I wanted to set up a space where parents could see what we were doing in class and could review language through media we had seen in class such as songs on Youtube, photos etc. I am also using a wiki this year for a collaborative project (again, see my blog), although at the moment it is just a place to store students’ online work. I use tools such as VoiceThread and Fotobabble to record students talking about their pictures.

    As our school doesn’t provide computers, most of the other teachers don’t use any technology in their lessons, relying more on course books and other resource materials we have. If one day we finally get laptops for school use, I would love to hold training sessions with them to showcase different tools and how they can enhance learning.

  4. HI, Ceri,
    My school is pretty low tech too. Classrooms have chalkboards and there is only one projector for the whole school in the library, so it’s hard to get it when you need it. There is a computer room but I can only use it on Fridays. However, almost all my students have an internet connection at home and many have smartphones with 3g. So I have managed to do quite a number of things.

    1) I use Protopage to organise the resources by class. There I can post sticky notes, links, videos,etc
    2) I have started using Wiggio as an LMS to try to build a community to extend learning outside the classroom.
    3) I have done lots of digital storytelling using diverse tools such as Powerpoint, Windows Movie Maker, Creaza, Voicethread, etc. even with Powerpoint the results are great!

    Cheers,
    Vicky

    • Ceri Jones says:

      Hi Vicky, thanks for your comments. I’m impressed (as always) by how much creativity you bring in to your classes. It’s a great example of marrying low tech classrooms with digital platforms for learning beyond the lesson. :)

  5. Alex Purcell says:

    Hi Ceri,
    Thought I´d share my experience of technology in the classroom.
    I´ve got an interactive whiteboard and an iPad so pretty lucky to have this technology in the classroom! My school began an iPad project a couple of years ago, which started with a few teachers experimenting with them and how to use them in class… Here´s a few things I use it for:

    I use it to take photos which can then be used as flashcards, using apps like Educreations where I can also record myself saying the word over the picture.

    I also take photos of students´ work, yesterday for example we were looking at famous quotes, they all chose one they liked and wrote it on a piece of A4 paper. We then made a photo collage of all the quotes together and posted the image on Twitter. They were really motivated by it!

    I´ve only recently got into Twitter and have been encouraging my classes to follow the school page and to tweet things in English. Almost all of them have smartphones so they loved being able to get their phones out in class and they really put a lot of thought into what they were going to say. Another thing I´ve asked them to do with their phones is take pictures for homework which can then be used for photo descriptions in class.

    With adult classes I´ve been using Edmodo a lot. It´s a group I only see once a week so it´s been perfect as a way for them to ask me questions between classes, send in homework and to chat with each other.

    Cheers!
    Alex

    • Ceri Jones says:

      Hi Alex,
      Thanks for your contribution! I like the use of twitter in particular. We’ve been trying to run similar projects on facebook with varying degrees of success. Where are you based? I guess you’re working in a private language school from the descriptions of your class. Is that right?
      Thanks again,
      Ceri :)

  6. Levente says:

    Hope it’s not too late for your course …
    I’m working in a well-equipped school in the south of Spain. We’ve been using projectors and ebeam for years now.
    What we’ve been doing with my FCE and CAE students (teenagers) since January was something totally new for us. It all grew out of a vocab activity we did on the birds and the bees. We built fictional characters living in a fictional small town (just like ours), created Twitter accounts for them and 2-3 students started using each account sending out messages i.e. creating a soap-opera role-play. Later on we set up a blog (gachiville.com) and started transferring the story and other ideas around it. I’ve been trying to run it as an out-of-syllabus venture – but at the same time recycling language covered in class and trying to discover what Dogme can offer to me. If you look at the blog you see traces of my attempts…
    The whole project has run its course by now (blog still under development) but I think of it as the pilot version of an idea that I’d like to keep alive. I’m going to sit down and reflect on it in the summer but I think getting teenagers to write in English daily for 4 months is definitely an achievement. I’m also proud of being able to keep a technology-based project very personal.

    Levente

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  8. Hi Ceri,
    I’ve been using web based technology since 2009 and I’ve seen so many advantages of it.
    1. we skyped with other classes around the world
    2. my students learned how to spice their presentations, they started using the tools i taught them for the other lessons and they managed to impress the other teachers. prezi, go animate, glogster were among them.
    3. We blogged with a class and they managed it really well
    4. I use class blogs to assign tasks, to showcase their projects, to archive for the next generation
    5. we started and collaborated a project with web 2.0 tools called celebr8uandmedigitally
    6. I use the tools at the pre-while-post phases of the lessons
    Some links
    at a seminar how I described my experience http://myweb.sabanciuniv.edu/olspguide/2012/06/15/reflections-on-sl-mini-conference-on-collaboration-in-technology-organized-by-the-online-learning-support-project-team-sabanci-university-school-of-languages-on-may-31-june-01-2012/

    http://evasimkesyan.edublogs.org/iatefl-2012/

    Our school blogs http://englishinesayan.blogspot.com esp grade 10fld, 11 fld and 11 sd are full of materials
    our wiki project http://celebr8uandmedigitally.wikispaces.com
    Hope it helps

    Cheers,
    Eva Buyuksimkesyan

  9. Jennifer says:

    Dear Ceri,
    For the last four years, I´ve been using a wiki with young learners. Unfortunately the online space is restricted. Please request access at http://www.web204digitalnatives.pbworks.com. This wiki has been selected by the British Council and Macmillan as the top ten ICT projects in Argentina, which will be turned into a publication with the support of Macmillan publishers.
    Cheers,
    Jennifer

  10. Nati Gonz'alez Brandi says:

    Hi Ceri,

    I”m Nat. At the moment teaching in Argentina. I use tech mostly to record ss’ spoken production and then get them to transcibe what they said and correct / improve their versions. Results have been very interesting and I even have podcasts of my ss’ own comments on how they reacted when they first listened to themselves. I also get them to use on-line apps like spreaker so that they listen to themselves and practise as many times as they want before they come up with the final product. Again, I believe these are great awareness raising activities and delayed feedback sources. Very Dogmeish as well since the teaching ponts are emerging from ss’ own production. Though I quite like spreaker, I still prefer the video, cause they can also observe themselves. Speech without gestures and body lang is different. Should u be interested in seeing ss’ reflections on how they reacted when they listened to themselves or their recordings + transcripts and reformulations, send me a twitter mssg @natibrandi.
    Best,
    Nati

    • Ceri Jones says:

      Hi Nat,
      Thanks for this. I totally agree with you on the value of voice recording tools – I’ve been using things like fotobabble and voicegthread where reluctant or shy speakers can hide behind a photo or an image, but I’m going to try and push them into the use of video too. You’re right, gestures and body language are important too – especially when sharing with peers.

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