Thanks to Alex Blagona who has kindly let me use his talk The A-Z of internet – presented at ICT Links into Languages February 12th, 2011 – as a springboard for this and my next few posts. The presentation pointed me in a few good directions!
Blogging: there are all kinds of blogging software on the internet – blogger, wordpress (which I use, and which supports theLanguage Village website), typepad and many more. It’s really a matter of choosing one and learning how it works.
The only way to learn is by doing! WordPress have very easy-to-follow tutorials, although it takes a while to get used to posting. Once you get the hang of it, you can post anything you like on it: student work; diaries of school trips abroad; it can be a way for parents to follow what’s going on in the language classrooms; a place to publish projects or photos (you can have passport protected pages to keep your students safe). On my own blog, I also have study notes and links to useful websitesfor my students.
The fantastic thing about blogging is that you create a real audience for your students, such a bonus when you’re motivating students to produce meaningful written texts. I’ve since seen other teachers who promote their class blogs among their Twitter network to help students get an audience beyond their peers and their school.
Bubbl.us – This site is for making mindmaps. You can prepare them yourself, print them off and save them, although the latter is a little more complicated. It’s very easy to learn how to use and can also work well as a homework task for students: after you have done a topic, they have to create a mind-map for themselves to study from. In our school, we are recommended to produce mindmaps for students with special needs, so this and the site below have come in handy in this context.
Classtools.net – This site has many free educational games, quizzes, activities, venn diagrams, fish diagrams, mind maps etc. You can use them in class or embed them onto your blog or wikispace (more on wikis later). The most commonly used tool from classtools.net that I saw during the Links into Languages Conference was the random name picker called the fruit machine which chose kids’ names to put them into groups, and the countdown timer – self explanatory! These tools are obviously more useful for those teachers lucky enough to have an interactive whiteboard or a digital projector in their room. The site is free though you can sign up for premium membership to create more sophisticated tools.
Cueprompter: I had cause to use this website when creating a podcast under the expert guidance of Joe Dale. To use the website, you type your text into a little box, which, at the touch of a button, can be turned into a prompter. The text scrolls like a telecue. It is excellent for reading practice and the speed at which the text scrolls can be adjusted for each student. It is therefore particularly good for podcasting and presentation to video. I plan to use this with my junior students when they are creating their Vokis (see below) and with my senior students so that they can record themselves as part of practising for their oral exam.
e.ggtimer: This is a great one for those with screens in the classroom. You put in the time you want and can then choose either a timer or a countdown clock, which displays for the students and a buzzer sounds when time runs out. I have brought my laptop to the classroom and put it on that – the students like it because there is no chance for you to lengthen or shorten the activity (as I certainly tend to do if something is working well)!
flickr Although I am familiar with flickr myself, the idea from Alex that really struck me and has stayed with me was the idea of finding a photo taken in an interesting situation, writing to the person who took it and asking them to describe what was going on at the time. The example he used was a photo taken during the rescue of the Chilean miners. It’s a simple, but brilliant idea to get students involved with what’s happening all over the world.
Facebook – I have a facebook page which I use with my class. They use it far more than my blog. The advantage of a Facebook page over a Facebook profile is that the owner of the page cannot see the profiles of the people using the page, which is vital. It means that I cannot see what the students write on their pages or on their friends’ pages. However, they can write on the wall of my Facebook page and I can comment on what they have written (or remove it – though fortunately this has not yet been necessary). Also, the students cannot – if you have maximum security on your own facebook profile – get to you through the page. Facebook brings its own concerns; I okayed the page with my principal before going ahead with this.
Imagechef: Image chef is extremely easy to use and is lovely for (as the name suggests!) making images with words. You can either have your chosen words as a background around your image, or as below, filling the shape of your preferred image. Here’sa quick one inspired by the supermoon last weekend:
Other people: Use the internet to create your own PLN (personal learning network) through Twitter, Facebook and blogging. Joe Dale and José Picardo are two leaders in the area of ICT in MFL teaching. A little time spent browsing their websites will give you lots of easy-to-use ideas. Alex Blagona blogs here and there are many many more teachers out there who are writing about their teaching and generously sharing their ideas with others.
Quizlet – On quizlet you can make or use flashcards, quizzes and games to teach or to revise language. I have used it with my own classes as a homework to pre-teach or to revise language we are using in class. You can create your own, but I have not done this yet as there are many prepared activities to which you can direct your students.
Slideshare – you can make and upload presentations to this site or you can search it for presentations. It’s possible to record and add a vocal track to your presentation. Susan Watson has a nice example of using slideshare to teach the places in the city in Spanish. Susan has a number of resources on the site in different languages.
twitter You will find a supportive, enthusiastic teaching community here. One Twitter user at the conference described it as ‘a virtual staffroom, without the cynicism!’ It takes a little getting used to, but only a little! You quickly get hooked.
Voki – This is a great site! Students can use their own or a computer generated voice to create an online character. It’s extremely simple to use, though we had problems at our school when all the members of a large class logged on at the same time and the site didn’t work for all of them. This was my first attempt at one.
There’ll be more to come as I try them out, but if you know all of these ones and are ready for more, please visit the Links into Languages website and have a look at all of the fantastic talks that the speakers have shared. Some of the talks are also available to watch for free on the same page.
Follow Alex on Twitter @blagona or read his blog.
I can be contacted at:
It would be great to get feedback on how you have used any of these sites. Leave a comment below to share what does and doesn’t work for you and give us some more ideas!