Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Connecting Theory to Practice. Building upon the underpinning pedagogies of Presentation tools. Part 2

Facilitating Pre-cognitive and Meta-cognitive evaluation through the use of NearPod and Padlet.

Part 2

Presenting Padlet 

    Padlet (formerly known as Wallwisher) is a free application (although I should mention that there is also a premium version which is not free) which can be used as a digital cork board. Setting up an account is super easy and after that you can either: 

1. Embed it in a classroom blog to share it with your students - like my Professor Jo did in the ICT in ELT module as an ice breaker or 

2. Use it as a presentation tool, lesson plan or some short of a WebQuest/ whole activity - like I did in one of my presentations in a joined session with colleagues from other core modules at Warwick University or even

3. Use it to elicit ideas and feedback from your students and peers - again like I did (with little success this time, I might add).

Padlets's advantages. Underpinning theory and pedagogical values:

    Padlet can be used for just about anything. It can display all sorts of information on any topic. It supports images, videos, embeddings, text etc. Added features are the "Padlet add-on" on your browser that allows you to instantly add the page you are browsing to your Padlet wall or to any Padlet wall you are contributing to. Advanced privacy settings allow for full, private or moderated access to your padlets and contributions from students can be subject to approval before being published.
    Padlet is indeed a BYOD tool because it prompts users to do exactly that in order to collaborate successfully (in other words to Bring their own Devices in the Classroom). One of Padlets clear advantages is that it promotes collaborative work on collecting ideas and brainstorming with a "Non-attributable way" or in other words anonymous. This can prove to be a valuable asset when dealing with timid students or if the brainstorming topic belongs to the category that can potentially cause considerable debate.
    Promoting good Netiquette practices is also attributed as a real advantage as students learn how to respect each others work and avoid vandalism or trolling. However, if that fails, Padlet incorporates the option of making the settings "private" thus blocking content alterations on a later stage - when outside of the classroom.
    And now for the most interesting part. On exactly the opposite site (of private-closed settings) Padlets can be used as a WebQuest bookmarking tool. This comes in direct alignment with the new reloaded, interface of WebQuests in a Web 2.0 environment. More specifically, students that navigate their way in QuestGarden can copy/paste links, classify them, rank them, share them and assess them with their peers at their own space, time and convenience.
    An "open wall" policy allows for a wealth of contributions, comments, eliciting ideas, feedback and constructive dialogue on real life scenarios thus providing the building blocks for HOTS. This is probably why, there is considerable debate amongst educators on where exactly to place Padlet on the SAMR model. My opinion is truly divided as I believe that Padlet allows for considerable Augmentation but at the same time - and especially in the instance of the "open wall" policy - it allows for substantial Modification and even Redefinition in the sense that this tool allows for the creation of new tasks previously inconceivable. (I know that this is a strong statement, however, take a look at my 2nd Padlet Project Based lesson plan and then feel free to leave me some feedback). The more authentic, challenging and dubious the subject is, the more Augmentation, Modification and Redefinition we are likely to elicit using this simple but amazing tool.
    Colour coding and classification of data, can also assist in bypassing problems that derive from heterogeneous classes. More specifically, a "red-zone" level of questions can be marked as accessible by the most capable users or on a "voluntary basis", leaving the necessary "space-buffer zone-comfort zone" for the less able students.

Padlets's limitations:

    Unfortunately, the Padlet embedded viewer is very small- as you can see from my embeddings, however, users can scroll the image in both directions to get a decent overview of the project. So ideally, this is a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) tool that requires a OHP (Over Head Projector). Another disadvantage is that it requires an email login which might frustrate some less confident users of technology. And in an attempt to be fair, I know many of my students that don't possess an e-mail account or they have forgotten the password mainly because they never use it.


    Padlet is brilliant in its simplicity. It is a web-based collaborative BYOD tool that really boosts interactivity, scaffolding and peer-assisted teaching to the next level. It doesn't necessarily require any elaborate technology and even a smartphone or tablet with a web connection will suffice for it to yield its considerable pedagogical added value.
     These are 32 Interesting ways to Use Padlet in the Classroom. (this is one of the free links available on the internet with many resources and ideas on how to use this amazing tool).

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Connecting Theory to Practice. Building upon the underpinning pedagogies of Presentation tools.

Facilitating Pre-cognitive and Meta-cognitive evaluation through the use of NearPod and Padlet.

Part 1

NearPod in a Nutshell. 

    NearPod is the go-to tool for interactive presentations and assessments. Teachers that use NearPod can create their own multimedia presentations or use a growing library of pre-made offerings which resembles an on line store as it both offers free and paid lesson plans-presentations with many of them directly deriving from the Khan Academy. The presentations are multi-modal (that means that they include both video and text-amongst other things)  and promote engagement, interactivity, feedback and assessment (which is basically achieved through giving the students a chance to answer questions along the way). Perhaps more importantly, NearPod presentations, give teachers the freedom to build their own custom tailored presentations that allows them to control the pace of the lesson. A student cannot just fly through the lesson to get to the end. The only way to advance to another page is when the teacher advances it. Teachers also have the ability to put test results or student drawings on everyone's Android, Microsoft tablet, iPad, smartphone or laptop.

Nearpod's advantages:

     This tool is a great way to introduce multimedia lessons in front of children/adults learners without the assistant of an OHP (over head projector). Users are able to literally hold in their hands vibrant videos and cool pictures, interact with them, answer open ended questions and provide feedback. However, the real power comes from every student "being forced" to respond to every question which is mainly achieved through real-time feedback-monitoring of student engagement.This means that the teacher is empowered to receive immediate feedback on how each student understands the content. This information can be emailed and reviewed on a later stage via a very clever reporting interface. The teacher even receives "badges" for having completed all of the stages in reviewing other Nearpods, making his own, launching a live session, receiving feedback on polls and questions and reviewing the detailed summative report on his presentation-lesson plan which is initially send by email but is available at any given time.
    My own friction with this tool proved just how quick and easy it is to set it up and running. The straightforward interface allows for little planning yielding however maximum results. And that was what saved me when I was feeling frazzled the night before my final Professional Practice presentation at the teaching grid at the University of Warwick. Even more so, this tool allowed for a smooth, paced introduction of my sample of  6 hours of teaching materials to my colleagues and placed me in a position to avoid any superficial approaches into my work. This experience made me realize the potential of this tool, which can be used to prevent students attacking their work at a sprinter's pace when I am tackling a very difficult subject. So to sum up, in my humble opinion, the greatest pedagogical value of this tool is "the value of a well structured and paced multi-modal input session that helps learners digest the information that is presented at them" and the power to pause, completely abort or fast forward a section/activity that doesn't seem to be working (I guess we all had that feeling).  
   To sum up, I totally agree with Stewart Morrell when he says that the greatest advantage of using this tool can come from using it in large audiences and university lecture rooms where:

1.It can be difficult for tutors to make a personal connection with a large cohort of students 
2.It can be difficult getting students in large cohorts to engage with the each other and with the tutor 3.Changing delivery patterns can negatively affect attendance 
4.The challenging nature of this subject means some students struggle to grasp new concepts and theories in a lecture setting, and they can ‘switch off’ in ways that it is difficult for the lecturer to detect

NearPod's disadvantages :

    Basically, all things aside, it is still a textbook. There is nothing really interactive about it. Students are still passive learners and there is a clear danger of moving from a Teacher-centred / "heads-up"approach to a tablet-centred, individualistic approach.  
    I also noticed in my presentation that (even with advanced teachers) Nearpod's ability to compress and offer an abundance of information ends up in confusing the audience. In reviewing my detailed report sheet, I saw that the highest achiever was my Professor. (Mrs Tilly) 
    I also had some issues with "glitchy" ipads that were just not keeping up with frozen screens and lost colleagues looking at each other in awe but this maybe attributed to the "Teaching Grid's"wireless connection and broadband speed. 
   Another serious issue derives from the ability to slow down. Don't get me wrong! This is an amazing feature, but what happens when some students have finished and some want to continue?DEADLOCK. (I am not being negative and I am merely following my tutors advice to seek the true limitations of every tool - in the cadre of being a true researcher).
    I also had a problem with the slides. The ones that contain text are very simple and lack flexibility in the number and shape of characters, colours etc resulting in a "statement-like" slideshow presentation that can definitely be characterised as being "telegraphic in nature".  
    And although it can be argued that this tool is used by educators as an initial step to developing the SAMR model, I guess that for teachers who are looking for authenticity, creativity and HOTS development, Nearpod isn't the way forward and if teachers just want to build rapport and incorporate some live-feedback and testing into their teaching practice then they might want to look at Socrative or Flubaroo which will do the same job just as well.

(Notice that I managed not to mention the low-resource classroom argument which frankly is starting to annoy me for some unknown reason!) 

Underpinning theory and pedagogical values:

    The basic affordances of using Nearpod in classroom derive from its ability to:

1.Increase student engagement with each other, the lecturer and the subject material
2.Assess student knowledge of the subject in real-time and provide an opportunity for discussion within the classroom
3.Prepare students for the end of unit exam (Morrell. S., 2014, Case study)

    Below you will find a video tutorial made by me, using a screen capture program called "Snag.it". The reason I deviated from the traditional focus on its various functions and how to go about making a presentation of your own is because there is plethora of YouTube videos that deal with the aforementioned. Instead, I chose to focus on the most interesting pedagogical part, which in my opinion is the advanced reporting facility that this tool offers and that empowers teachers to develop self-reflecting and evaluation skills on their teaching practice by an "a posteriori" manipulation of data. 


    Nearpod is a very powerful, effective, multi-modal presentation tool, that allows for considerable pre-cognitive and meta-cognitive evaluation by effectively leveraging the advantages of "face to face" (or "1 on 1" if you prefer) environments into a homogeneous (but not heterogeneous) classrooms.
   So, I am going to conclude with a very nice quote by Michelle Pacansky-Brock who said: "Teaching with emerging technologies is, by nature experimental and failure is an implicit step in an experiment. If we don't fail, we don't learn, and if we don't learn we don't improve upon what we're already doing. And in the 21st century, improving upon-a centuries old tradition of teaching and learning is critical"   (Pacansky-Brock M. 2013, p.42)

   Below you will find embedded my first presentation for my Professional Practice module in ICT and M/M in ELT using Nearpod. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. You will notice that although you can use the "open button" on the bottom of the slide share to skim through my slides, full access requires a code. I consider this to have many advantages and disadvantages, but I will leave this to your own better judgement. 


1. Stewart Morrell. (2014) Case study LI022, Using Nearpod to enhance student engagement in large lectures. Accessed publicly via Stewart Morrell

2. Pacansky-Brock, M. (2013) Best Practices for Teaching with Emerging Technologies.Routledge.

Monday, 16 March 2015

WebQuests in the Web 2.0 era. Re-contextualizing & progressing from a teacher-centred practice to a learning-centred experience.

Students as the mediators of the learning process. 

QuestGarden Revisited 

The story so far.

    In 1995, teachers all around the world learned how to incorporate the web into their teaching practice. By adopting the WebQuest format of task-based/project based learning they were able to transform the learning process in a profound way. However, questions such as:

1. What exactly is a WebQuest and

2. What are the pre-conditions of creating a WebQuest, still manage to thoroughly "tantalise" the education scenery with an admittedly high number of failed attempts. 

    So, in the next few lines, I will explain the processes, mechanics, underpinning theory and feelings that derive from creating a good WebQuest. At this point, I must admit that in my efforts to create one, I soon found out that I had to go back to the drawing board. And this is because in order to make a very good WebQuest you first need to develop a critical perspective about them. This is probably why on the very first day of our introductory course on WebQuests, Mrs Tilly (she doesn't like me to address her as "Professor"), told us to go through a vast array of WebQuests and provide with a critical review. Little did I know, that this "waste of time" (that was what I thought of it, at that time) was helping me develop a thorough understanding on the endless possibilities that were on offer. Analysing the various WebQuests in terms of interactivity, output, pedagogical values and various other perspectives, helped me gain a sense of "what is a good WebQuest". With the mirroring process of reflective practice being (now) more than evident, I feel compelled to disseminate my "revelation".So, in short: Explore! Critically Assess and always ask why! Why is this WebQuest good or bad and then move on, onto the next level, jotting down the various factors that - according to you - make a tool, good or bad.     

The Mechanics.

    In a nutshell - and to my best understanding - the main prerequisites for creating a good WebQuest are:

1. Gradual, scaffolded approach into acquiring and owning knowledge.
2. Discovery of data through live links.
3. Authentic, relevant, salient, motivating, engaging and investigative tasks.
4. Open-ended questions that trigger the "quest".
5. Individual work that linearly develops from pairing activities and assessment of data  and ends-up in group co-construction of knowledge and feedback.
6. Grading, assessing and creatively incorporating data. Transition from a quantitative to a much more qualitative approach in handling information and using it.
7. Holistic approach that initially takes into consideration the "whole" and then moves on to examining the "particular". 
8. Metadata deriving from "real life/hands-on experience" matters and
9. Considerable precognitive and metacognitive evaluation that assists reflective practice. 

    However, just by taking a closer look in the aforementioned prerequisites, I quickly became aware of why my Professor chose not to just "touch upon " this "old and outdated" ICT tool and instead devoted a complete thematic lecture/workshop of 3 hours. Since the creation of this blog, I tried to illustrate that the emergence of Web 2.0  technologies created a necessity for a structured approach into handling data. The vastness of the internet and the plethora of tools available made technology inherently disruptive and potentially harmful to learners. However, interestingly enough, this "negative side" of technology doesn't seem to affect WebQuests, which thrive on making a smooth, seamless transition from a large quantity of data to a much more focused, qualitative approach into knowledge acquisition. In more simple words, learners through WebQuests learn how to effectively "filter", assess and evaluate information, eventually teaching themselves how to co-construct the "puzzle" of knowledge. And what does this spell? Higher Order Thinking Skills (in their best form, I might add). 
    So, to put things into perspective, in an attempt to create my own definition: "WebQuests use a linear, seamless, progressive approach to Second Language Acquisition, by building upon the "inherent disruptiveness" of Web 2.0 environments and at the same time manage to bypass teacher-led/centred activities by enabling learners assume the position of the mediator, in a qualitative focused multi-modal learning experience ". (This is actually my first attempt to create a definition on something, so I sincerely hope that you will appreciate the fancy rhetoric!!!).   

QuestGarden: Addendum

    Ever since, I subscribed to a 2 year membership in QuestGarden (best $20 I ever spent), I was placed in a unique learning environment that fosters and promotes real pedagogical values but at the same time - but perhaps even more importantly for us, as educators - it enables language professionals to adhere in "culturally responsive teaching practices" to use a term introduced by Zaretta Hammond in her new book (Hammond, Z. 2015) which focuses on how to promote authentic engagement and rigour amongst culturally and linguistically diverse students.
   So in an attempt to build on her theory of "cultural responsiveness", I tried to adapt the materials and incorporate them into the design "framework"of a WebQuest. During that process, I tried to successfully identify the various cultural capital and tools that students of specific origin brought to the classroom. Subsequently, I was able to respond to students' use of these cultural learning tools positively by noticing, naming, and affirming when students use them in the service of learning. The most common cultural tools for processing information utilize the brain's memory systems  (music, repetition, metaphor, recitation, physical manipulation of content, and ritual). In this way and after the WebQuest was over, (theoretically), I would be in a much better position to be "responsive" and mirror these ways of learning in my instruction giving, using similar strategies to scaffold learning.
    To make a really long story short (I am really trying not to make you fall asleep) WebQuests :

1.Capitalize on the intrinsic motivation fostered by Web 2.0 technologies,

2.Function as a highly structured "mind mapping" framework that promotes HOTS and especially critical thinking, reasoning and evaluation,

3.Use a constructivist, multi-modal, resource-oriented approach into SLA, that manages to build upon the "negative aspect of the Internet", (there is nothing wrong in recreating the feeling of "free-internet surfing" that takes place within a well though-out and "confined-protected-screened" virtual space), and last but not least

4.There is considerable ground for improving the scaffolding process that takes place in WebQuests. More specifically, while brainstorming for my dissertation subject, I considered ways to improve the almost "static nature" of  the 'Introduction and Task' stage that seems to be inconsistent with the progressive nature of todays' World Wide Web. So, my thoughts went towards incorporating the use of ICT tools that promote mainly student autonomy and empower students to be their own "mediators" in the learning process.

    An initial inquiry of the literature revealed that Thomas's  March CEQALL model (March, T. 2007) meets all the above aforementioned criteria. March cites 5 different elements that assist in making the transition from traditional learning practices towards the modern notion of 'Personal Learning Networks'. These five elements are Choice, Effort, Quality, Attitude and Labour of Love.
    In an attempt to answer the question of what technology to use within WebQuests to bring about this shift, I started experimenting with incorporating ICT tools such as:

1.Blogs, (Blogger)
2.Mind mapping tools, (Popplet)
3.Brainstoring tools, (Tricider)
4.Screen casting tools, (Screencast-o-matic)
5.Augmented reality tools, (Aurasma)
6.Presentation tools (Prezi, PowerPoint, Present.me, Nearpod)
7.RSS feeds to keep the content "fresh" and place learners in a position to evaluate "new data" and decide whether to incorporate it, and finally
8.Social Bookmarking tools, which act as a quick reference library. (Scoop.it)

My context

    Ever since I started teaching 7 years ago, I realized that the main inhibitory factors that would prevent me from developing a successful teaching practice would be:

A.The difficulty in persuading learners to use their oral competency in front of others,
B.The exam oriented nature of English Language Teaching in Greece,
C.The "botched up" curricula and extra curricular activities that inherently de-motivates, stresses-out and exhausts learners.
    However, with the recession becoming even more evident over the past 2 years, the financial weight to meet the extra cost of selecting and choosing the top 10 institutes, submitting, monitoring the application procedure and finally accepting the conditional/unconditional offer of a placement became almost unbearable.

    While skimming and scanning through the basic bibliography I came across many of Bernie's Dodge (he is the originator of the WebQuest concept) writings-views. However, the one that caught my eye was that a WebQuest "is an inquiry-oriented (web) activity.....[..]........designed to use learners' time well, to focus on using information rather than on looking for it, and to support learners' thinking at the levels of analysis, synthesis, and evaluation." Even more so, according to Kenton Letkeman (leading educator and creator of a number of great WebQuests) "students feel that they are sucking up information and regurgitating it onto paper for no other reason than to get a good grade. 

    Wow! So far, I had managed to address 2 of the 4 criteria cited directly above. (time management issues, exam oriented ELT). The only thing missing to create my first super WebQuest was to address the issue of the added cost of applying into some of the UK's leading reputable institutes of higher education. And thus my first WebQuest was born.  

My WebQuest

    Keeping in mind that when creating a WebQuest the answers are not predefined and therefore must be discovered or created in order to "gently" push learners to use their own creative-thinking and problem-solving skills to find solutions to a REAL problem, I decided to create a WebQuest to address the whole procedure of:

A.Identifying the various institutions of higher education in the UK
i.e  UCAS
      British Council  etc
B.Selecting the top ten UK Universities by using RSS feeds from various sources
ie. Times Higher Education - The World University Rankings
     Top Universities
     The Academic ranking of World Universities
     The Guardian
     The Centre for World University rankings etc

C.Applying - filling the application forms, drafting of the motivation letter,

D.Monitoring procedures - emails with the various enrolment teams about documents (i.e CV's, conditional offers, validating previous degrees etc)

E.Accepting a final offer and choosing a University

F.Follow up procedure - more emails to Faculty, enrolment team and finance services

G.Getting there - travel arrangements, first expenses, securing lodging.

H.Being a student in the UK. Course curriculum and extra curricular activities, students life (i.e student union, parties, societies, sports etc)

    However, due to the immense length of the whole task, each section will form its own WebQuest with the first one being - for strictly motivational purposes!!!! - "Student Life in UK Universities". The six building blocks of the WebQuest are going to be :

1.The Introduction orients students and captures their interest.
2.The Task describes the activity's end product.
3.The Process explains strategies students should use to complete the task.
4.The Resources are the Web sites students will use to complete the task.
5.The Evaluation measures the results of the activity.
6.The Conclusion sums up the activity and encourages students to reflect on its process and results


Target Group: EAP students preparing to sit their IELTS academic module exams. Age 17+, Private School-English Language Centre/EU streamed education. English is mandatory in formal mainstream education. Summer Intensive lessons. 


    Each individual student will be assigned the "journalistic task" (according to Dodge's taxonomy of tasks) of having to skim and scan through 10 Universities to locate the different societies that exist in these institutions. They will have to go through their individual pages and decide which one will possibly suit their needs as prospective university students. They will have to take into account the various parameters of a balanced social life and educational life as well as their individual criteria that matches their character. They will then present their findings providing a rough outline of the activities on offer, their individual choices and lastly provide with a rationale as to why they made these choices. They will then compare and contrast their findings and receive questions on the various activities offered by the societies that they have chosen. 


Assign Editorship: 

Each student will have access to his own individual WebQuest that will contain:

1.Live RSS feeds (from the 10 universities and their faculties social network webpages!!!!), 
2.An embedded classroom blog link (for later use)  
3.An embedded Tricider questionnaire to provide with initial brainstorming (guess what this picture is about and receive comments on these thoughts), 
4.Links to some relevant articles on student life (mixed genres containing i.e 10 weirdest societies in British Universities or Procrastination etc)
5.Embedded link to Visual.ly for students to create their own infographic of their top10 of activites.
6.Embedded link to Screencast-o-matic for students to create their own presentation of findings, narrate their choices and embed in classroom blog for dissemination and group discussion.
7.Embedded link to group Paddlet to "drag and drop" a picture of their favourite activity they located in their favourite society using social media RSS feeds again.
8.Embedded link to Nearpod to create a 2 minute final recap-presentation with a main focus to elicit feedback from peers through the use of open-ended questions and questionnaires that will kick-start classroom discussion.     


    Students will conduct Internet research in their 10 allocated universities and claim this area as their field of speciality. 

Editorial Meeting:

    The Learners will meet both on-line and off-line (in a synchronous and asynchronous environment) share research results and create final lists research activities. They will discuss the various activities and reach a consensus about which activities could be potentially disruptive and may inflict on their studies. Special focus will be given in establishing common criteria about what is disruptiveness in student life and what is deemed as necessary fun activities. My position will be to maybe intervene by asking them why, what and how can something be disruptive in pursuing their education (an admittedly open ended question which will hopefully activate their critical reasoning skills a.k.a HOTS).


    Each student will write a short paragraph in the form of a blog post containing his initial thoughts on student life and his intentions as a prospective university student. This will hopefully trigger a "hefty" amount of correspondence from peers.


    The students will meet in class to share their findings using drafts of their work. An infographic and a Padlet activity will assist learners in scaffolding (or even better sharpening) their oral skills in preparation for their main presentation and lively dialogue at the end of this WebQuest.

Oral Presentation:

    The final stage will include a small, short but coherent presentation of 10 amazing student life activities custom  tailored to the students wants and needs. The use of Nearpod will elicit real time feedback and the use of this amazing and powerful technology will hopefully boost engagement levels to their maximum potential. 


    At the end of the presentation, a small Nearpod presentation by me, will introduce the course curriculum, containing the structured WebQuest course. Hopefully, students will then share my enthusiasm in making a decisive step towards realizing their dream to live and study in a British university.  

List of citations

(The list is pretty much endless however this is what "triggered" my small scale research project).

1. Zaretta Hammond Culturally Responsive Teaching and The Brain. Promoting Authentic Engagement and Rigor Among Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students e-book

2.Thomas March Revisiting WebQuests in a Web 2 World. How developments in technology and pedagogy combine to scaffold personal learning. Interactive Educational Multimedia, Number 15 (October, 2007), pp. 1-17

3. M. José Luzón and M. Noelia Ruiz-Madrid (2008). Learning to Learn in a Digital Context: Language Learning Webtasks for an Autonomising “Wreading” Competence. CORELL: Computer Resources for Language Learning 2, 28-45

4. Drew Polly and Leigh Ausband (2009). Developing Higher-Order Thinking  Skills through WebQuests. Journal of Computing in Teacher Education. Volume 26 / Number 1

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Happy "Digital Learning Day".

What a journey!    


    Today, I attended my last lecture of my Professional Practice Module. It has been an amazing journey so far as I was given the unique opportunity to be part of a global team of teachers, teacher trainers and academics. As a newly qualified ICT in ELT Language Professional, I feel obliged and happy to share with you an activity to celebrate "Digital Learning Day" on March 13th with this fun (I hope!!!!!) activity

    So, let's celebrate through the best possible way, using ICT in doing what we love,  which is Teaching.

    As a start - and before we engage with using various ICT tools - I would like you to think “How has technology in the classroom helped you to learn?”. I would like you to reflect back on your own experiences that derive from attending the MA in ELT at this reputable institute of higher education. After this small pondering has finished (try to focus on the positive stuff please) then it's time for "warm up activities" using a few of the most collaborative tools.

1. A Present.me, Paddlet or Nearpod activity that will illustrate our professional development these past few months 

2. Capture the beat. Take the embedded survey (SurveyMonkey) and let's share our views on some basic affordances. 

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey , the world's leading questionnaire tool.

3. Time for some "brainstorming" activity using Tricider to elicit full arguments depicting the various "advantages and disadvantages of using ICT in the modern ELT classroom"

4. Time to put things into perspective. Let's do some "mind mapping" using Popplet to create a visual "road map" of the inter-subjectivity and interconnectivity that exists between the various arguments that were introduced by the previous activity. 

5. Next up. Let's claim co-authorship in our ideas. A season special includes collaborative BoomWriter and WordWriter activities that allow for co-constructing final essays on the same subject. There is even the extra option to include special "Digital Learning Day Vocabulary"! We only have to add our desired scientific terminology and let's see if we can incorporate it all in a small essay. It's really good fun and challenging to watch the "word cloud" slowly disappear as you use the target language. Its "progressive" nature allows users to monitor their writing while "absorbing" the target language. 

 Click on the following link to enrol in our Personal Learning Network (PLN) and complete step 4.  How has technology in the classroom helped me learn

School ID: 8914

6. After publishing our work, a vodcast using screencast-o-matic will assist us to proceed to a summative and formative step by step/line by line assessment/review/narrative on our own writings using as a bench mark Bloom's revised taxonomy for promoting HOTS and the SAMR model. The aforementioned activity will provide the perfect ground for consolidating practice and will enable us to achieve an in-depth/thorough understanding of what we have achieved. 

7. Last but not least, this blog embedding will provide the necessary time and space for cognitive evaluation (or a bit of banter if you wish i.e a Voki avatar from each and everyone with a closing remark, wish, hope, invite,prediction, statement etc).

Cheers everyone, 

Thank you for an amazing experience.


Saturday, 7 March 2015

M-learning. Can Mobagogy promote Higher Order Thinking Skills


All Images and graphs under Creative Common Licence. (Google Images/Options/Advanced Search/Usage Rights/Free to use or share even commercially). 

    Mobile literacy in the last decade has given rise to new terms such as "Mobagogy" and M-learning. In the following lines, I will attempt to illustrate how technology in its simplest form promotes Higher Order Thinking Skills (a.k.a HOTS) whilst managing to maintain the teacher as the central "pillar" in a "community connective" approach into Second Language Acquisition. And as we shall see "it's all about asking the right question at the right time".  

Modern Problematic 

    Can we really claim that: "when used  individually,  mobile apps  tick all of the boxes"? Well,  in a nutshell, it depends. The limitations are quite clear when it comes to using such   technologies and the factors  that  influence  output  are  mainly  located  in  the very  nature  of  mobile  devices which are considered as inherently disruptive, especially in education.
    So the question would be "why even bother!". To give an answer to such a question would involve referring to an old army saying. As a former officer in the Hellenic Armed Forces, I can distinctly remember my superior officers' response to any complain regarding resources."We fight with what we have and not with what we would like to have".  In an attempt to "adapt an overcome", I started experimenting with Mobile Learning that uses salient instruction giving, it's relevant, it's authentic, it builds rapport by providing an individual approach, it motivates and engages, it practises all four skills, it's multi-modal, it's portable and most of all it is 100% freely accessible by all students at any given time. 
    The next step involved finding "app tools" which manage to incorporate these parameters, keeping the 'instruction giving' short, simple and salient, with a clear purpose to activate learners Higher Order Thinking Skills and with the precondition of not being "disruptive".  However, after having reviewed all of the aforementioned podcasting and vodacsting tools in my previous blog post, I asked myself to what extend I could do any better! And after having reviewed a vast array of apps, I quickly came to the conclusion that "simple is indeed better".

    Whatsapp Messenger and Viber are two of the most famous instant messaging applications that all learners have installed on their mobile phones. However, the thing that most of us don't know or haven't yet realized is, that these apps have advanced capabilities which include:

1.The ability to send audio, video and pictures with narratives and live links,

2.Advanced dashboard choices which include the creation of "discussion and mailing/receiving groups", blocking and visibility preferences.

3.The ability to embed materials in social media and blogs and much much more and last but not least

4.Perhaps, the best feature by far is that these apps can be installed on your laptop/PC as well. This means that teachers can use a full desktop keyboard to boost productivity/speed and convenience in messaging the various classes/individual students. In this way, these apps function exactly as an advanced email service would in a formal institute setting, without however intimidating or demotivating learners. 

Making things simpler. M-learning through Viber and Messenger.

    So, in an attempt to "activate schemata" I will illustrate how these 2 applications-with minimum fuzz-can be used by teachers to:

1. Provide individualized feedback. (using  Viber's Push-to-Talk  and WhatsApp Voice Messaging )

    "Hi Jonathan. I really enjoyed reading your essay.Well done. Keep up the good work. Please "click" on this audio file to receive a step-by-step correction of the composition you submitted on the 03/02/2015". 
    On the positive side we can see the potential applications that in some circumstances simulate podcasting and vodcasting. On the downside, the recordings on Viber only last for 30 seconds something that doesn't apply with WhatsApp Messenger that has an amazing interface. (click on the link to watch the video tutorial) However, Viber's disadvantage, can easily be turned into an advantage by making small recordings and braking down the analysis in 4 categories : 

A. Task achievement
B. Coherence and cohesion
C.  Lexical resource
D. Grammatical range and accuracy

2. Serve as a reminder for homework or deadline for submission.

    "Greetings class. Please don't forget to read the text on page 15 on 'Biodiversity and Industrial Revolution'. Do not spend more than 10 minutes reading it. Skim for dates, names, places and other basic info/arguments that "stand out" in the text. See you in class tomorrow. or
   "Greetings class. just a reminder that your assignment on 'Biodiversity and Industrial Revolution' is due next week on the 04/03/2015. I can't wait to receive your papers and see your ideas on the videos we saw last week on that subject.

3. Serve as a review of the weeks learning outcomes and a brief outlook for the next week that might motivate learners.

    "Greetings class.This week has been amazing. We had the chance to...... "or
    "Greetings class. This week we'll be exploring 'student life in British Universities'. If you want to take a quick look and get a head start please click on the link and watch the video. On Monday we'll start the day with a discussion on that video, so I strongly advise you to take 5 minutes and watch it".

4. Introduce mini-lessons 

   "Greetings Team this is our: 'idiom of the day', or 'word of the day' or 'quiz of the day'. Try and make a full sentence using this 'idom/word' of the day"

5. Introduce Flipped-classroom applications.

    "Hi Team. Please take 3 minutes to watch this video by clicking on the link, then log into 'Tricider' and give your opinion of a few basic arguments on the subject" or
   "Hi Team. Please take 30 seconds to watch this funny video, then click on this link to Google docs/log into out classroom blog and try and guess what happens next. Write as many possible scenarios as you want".
     As with the voice recorded messages, video messages are limited to 3 minutes so this must be kept in mind when designing a flipped-classroom activity.

6. Introduce Lower Order Thinking Skills of Knowledge (Describing).

    "Hi team. Your next mission is to take a picture or a video using your Viber app on your mobile phone (just press the '+' sign on the bottom left corner of your Viber app and choose the 'camera' or 'video' option. Then post it in the 'group discussion' and write a short description about it and why you chose to take this picture/video" or
    "Hi team. Your next mission is to post a picture of yourselves and tell us a few things about where you live, your family, hobbies, where you live, 2 likes and 2 dislikes".

7. Tasked Based or Project Based approaches into teaching that promote both 'LOTS' such as 'defining' and 'outlining' and  HOTS such as 'Evaluating' and 'Creating'.  

    "Hi Team. Please 'click' on the link and watch the video. Use the 'group chat' function on Viber and write: 
a) A full sentence depicting the idea or 
b) Write a story that takes place in this picture (a picture of a ship leaving a port) or
c) Outline the main arguments that derive from this video or
d) Do you agree with the action taken by the main character. Would you do the same? Why/Why not?
e) What are the possible implications for this discovery in science (a video about a breakthrough). Are there any disadvantages?
f) Test how quick you are.Watch the video only once. Try and jot down: Who, what, where, when and why. Try not to cheat! Have fun and see you in class 

or alternatively, 

    "Hi Team, please 'click' on the file and listen to my step by step instructions. Complete the tasks before you attend class tomorrow. Lets see how many of you will complete this challenge . Good luck agents. See you in class next week".

Underpinning the theory  

    Although there is considerable debate as to what exactly mobile learning really entails (Hockly N. 2015) , there seems to be a wide spread consensus around the notion that Mobile Assisted Language Learning (MALL) has contributed towards making the transition from Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL) to Technology Enhanced Language Learning (TELL). And although there is a sizeable amount of research around the use of these app-tools the area surrounding students and teacher perception towards them remains considerably under researched (S. Schuck, P. Aubusson, M. Kearney, K. Burden 2010 & N. Hockly 2013 & G. Dudeney, N. Hockly 2012 & M. Kearneya, S. Schucka, K. Burdenb and P. Aubussona 2012).
    Many of these studies point out that apps are proven to be extremely effective tools when used in informal settings mainly because they promote learner and teacher autonomy. Even more so, these studies prove that these tools create an ideal environment that fosters interactivity, collaborative and ubiquitous learning practices with the only precondition being that students are familiar with the affordances of the device used. (Ibid)
   So placing aside whether M-learning refers to "student mobility" (Kukulska-Hulme, A. 2009 & Traxler, J. 2009) or to the "portability/mobility of the devices" themselves (ibid), the implications for educators seem to be endless. With the British Council being the pioneer in this field, 2009 saw the rise of both stand alone and course-book related apps (with the latest version being Augmented reality Apps such as Aurasma, Google Goggles, Wikitube AR, Layar and others).

Mobagogy before, during and after classroom teaching

   As with any piece of technology, m-learning can either be used as a "means to an end", sticking to its strict - static - orientation of pre-packaged (specific content) learning app/tool form, which assists learners, improves their linguistic skills or it can assume its full potential as a tool that enhances learner abilities, efforts and autonomy in producing the target language (Hockly N, 2013). Having in mind the later choice, researchers in their efforts to design learning activities that would otherwise be impossible to carry out without the use of a mobile device, developed the SAMR model (Puentedura, R. 2010).
   In the following lines, I will try and demonstrate how this model is used as a basic taxonomy for when designing course curricula that include the use of mobile devices. This "guide" provides a linear representation of using mobile technology for either the purpose of 'enhancing language learning' or to 'completely transform' the language acquisition process into meeting the standards provided by the HOTS model initially provided by Bloom. More specifically, I will demonstrate that "using mobile technology for substitution or augmentation purposes" simply enhances language learning while "using it for modification or redefinition purposes" completely and utterly transforms language acquisition as we know it.

Putting theory into practice. Mixing & matching mobile apps to enhance teacher/learner autonomy using the SAMR paradigm.

'S' for Substitution:  "technology acts as a tool substitute, with no functional change" 

  Perhaps one of the best FREE English dictionary apps for Android s—with over 2,000,000 definitions and synonyms from Dictionary.com & Thesaurus.com! Able to work OFFLINE. It also incorporates daily content including Word of the Day, blog & slideshows. The advanced Learner’s Dictionary provides additional context with audio pronunciations, idioms & phrases, word origin & history, voice search, favourite words,search history,spelling suggestions, IPA and phonetic pronunciations, commonly looked-up words mapped to specific locations, medical, legal & financial content, abbreviations, acronyms & slang content,word of the Day home screen widget,compatible with tablet devices

'A' for  Augmentation "technology acts as a direct tool substitute, with functional improvement"

Grammar Jammers contains 'catchy' animated songs and rhymes that make English language exciting! Grammar Jammers animations introduce learning grammar usage and mechanics in the most fun way. Each animation unlocks a quiz. By answering all the quiz questions for all the Grammar Jammers topics users unlock an interactive reward.

For a quick guide on how 'Grammar Jammers' works please watch the following YouTube video provided by the developing team.  

'M' for Modifications: "technology allows for significant task redesign"  

Edmodo is a "social learning platform" website for teachers, students, and parents. It is marketed as the Facebook for schools.

Using this mobile app, teachers can invite students into private groups that can be used for online classroom discussions, but in a format that keeps the teacher firmly in control. Teachers give students a class signup code, which can be deactivated once all students have signed up, and students in turn are encouraged to share the code with their parents, allowing them to monitor their own child's activity. As an invitation-only social network, Edmodo is meant to mirror a secure offline classroom that intruders cannot access, with rules of decorum enforced by software. For example, students are not allowed to pass private messages to other students in class. They can post only to the group or the teacher, and group messages can be moderated by the teacher.

'R' for Redefinition: "technology allows for the creation of new tasks previously inconceivable".

    Aurasma is an augmented reality. The real epitome comes with a function that lets you create and share your own augmented reality experiences! Amongst its many functions I noticed the following: 
Tagged images, objects and landmarks come to life with extra interactive digital content, such as video, animations, and 3D.
Magazines, posters, books, apparel, product packaging that have the logo 'A' come to life ! 
It incorporates a smart browse button-function that enables you to find the latest and most popular Augmented Reality sites.  
Users can follow a simple step-by-step creation wizard within the app to make their own Augmented Reality (AR) files and share them with friends and other Aurasma users.
Last but not least, users can build AR files using their own photos and videos, or alternatively, select from thousands of digital animations available on the platform. Most popular user-generated AR files include adding 3D dinosaurs to your street, sending a video message on a greetings card, leaving hidden clues in a treasure hunt, or adding information to classroom materials.

For a quick guide on how 'Aurasma' works please watch the following YouTube video provided by the developing team.  

A selection of Bibliography on M-learning 

1. Kukulska-Hulme, A. 2009. ‘Will mobile learning change language learning?’ ReCALL 21/2: 157–65. 

2. Traxler, J. 2009. ‘Learning in a mobile age’. International Journal of Mobile and Blended Learning 1/1: 1–12.

3.Puentedura, R. 2010. ‘SAMR and TPCK: intro to advanced practice’. Available at http://goo.gl/78UJn

4. Hockly, N. 2013.'Mobile Learning.Technology for the language teacher' ELT Journal Oxford University Press Volume 67/1 January 2013 

5. Xiao-Bien Chen. Tablets for informal language learning: Student usage and attitudes.Language Learning & Technology 2013, Volume 17, Number 1 pp. 20–36

6. Kearneya, M, Schucka S, Burdenb K and Aubussona P. Viewing mobile learning from a pedagogical perspective. Research in Learning Technology Vol. 20, 2012

7. S. Schuck, P. Aubusson, M. Kearne. MOBAGOGY- Mobile Learning for a higher education community. IADIS International Conference Mobile Learning 2010 Copyright 2010 
IADIS Press 

All links to free articles and journals under Creative Commons Licence 
Creative Commons Licence
Mobile Learning and the Disruption of Education by David Thornburg, PhD is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://www.tcse-k12.org/pages/disruptive.pdf.
Disruptive Devices: Mobile Technology for Conversational Learning by Mike Sharples is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://www.eee.bham.ac.uk/sharplem/Papers/ijceell.pdf.  

Thursday, 26 February 2015

"Mixing and matching" Podcasts, Vodcasts and Text-to-Speech tools to promote listening and speaking skills.


                                                                  Modern Problematic 

    Authenticity, relevance and saliency go hand in hand with learner autonomy, engagement and motivation. In an attempt to avoid "fancy talk", I will start by saying that: "often enough we as educators find that "keeping it real" along with "keeping it short and simple" empowers us in helping our students learn easier and faster. So if that's the case, why does lesson planning that involves Podcasting and Vodcasting tools often enough, ends up in going towards the exact opposite direction, spreading the focus in a admittedly vast spectrum of conflicting subjects! Can we really hide behind the argument that "as long as students produce and practice the target language, the open-ended nature of the task justifies the absence of a clear outcome"? My answer is NO, especially in my teaching context where clear constructivist approaches into teaching involve Task-Based and Project-Based approaches with clear quantifiable outcomes that cover streamed course curricula.  
   In the next few lines, I will quickly skim through some of the tools used for Podcasting and Vodcasting. To my own defence (and for my assessors consideration), the reason I am deviating from my original path of outlining the functions and interface of a specific ICT tool is that there is a plethora of amazing web sites and blogs, which in all honesty, stand as shinning examples in matters concerning ICT usage in the modern ELT classroom. Even more so, as an MA student in ELT, that only recently became a blogger (about 6 weeks ago), I strongly believe that there is a very thin line that separates  recycling other colleagues blogs for "internal consumption" and reviewing entries for pedagogical, CPD or best practices dissemination purposes. 
    As mentioned in the previous paragraph, in an attempt to go deep and narrow, in order to outline the theories and pedagogy that underpin the use of these ICT tools, I will try and avoid those lengthy (and boring) "step sequencing" presentations.  The blog that by far stands out in this respect is called Teacher Training Videos (providing a step by step comprehensive guide of short and to the point video tutorials on how to use ICT tools in the classroom) and belongs to one of my teachers, Russell Stannard. In an effort not to look like I am "brown nosing" , Free Technology for Teachers, is also one of my favourite blogs also offering a step by step review with the difference that, often enough, it manages to go above and beyond the technology by underlining the  hidden pedagogical values of using these ICT tools.

A Brief Review on selected tools.

    Before I begin, I would like to underline the fact that the following review isn't exhaustive and as a matter of fact there are plenty of other tools that do the same job. However, for the scope of illustrating the various degrees and levels of "disruptiveness", "saliency" and "learner and teacher motivation in using them" , I will limit myself in a linear presentation of tools, moving from "heavily and inherently" disruptive tech to user-friendly, compatible with other tech, engaging, motivational technology.  
   First off is Audacitywhich is admittedly the most complete, open-source audio tool that even transcribers use in Critical Discourse Analysis. The editing features are pretty much endless, but at the same time much more elaborate, so the potential for use by the students is ambiguous. Some argue that with greater challenge comes a greater reward-especially with advanced learners, however I don't feel confident letting my Cambridge Proficiency (CPE) students use it, because there are so many things that can (and probably will) go wrong, ending up with putting them off. The company that's behind the tool, obviously knows that, so they have created a complete set of Audacity Tutorials, which painfully reminds me of my own personal experience when making my first transcription for my Spoken English Assignment at The University of Warwick. So for the time being, I will only limit myself to saying that this tool is inherently "disruptive" and can in fact have dubious results that mainly concern measuring "output" in accordance to the amount of time "invested" in using this technology or "input". 
   Second in line in my review is AudioBoom (former AudioBoo). This tool empowers users to match pictures with their audio recordings to offer a multi-modal approach into input sessions. Amongst other features that include "a one button embedding procedure", AudioBoom comes in an "app" form for iPad, iphone and Android users. A possible scenario for its use would include learners taking pictures with their smartphones, recording a narrative where they have to describe the picture and then with a click of button embed it in the class blog for group viewing and classroom discussion. However, in my opinion, perhaps the best feature is the "AudioBoom for Education" section, that functions as a "case study" library. The added value here is that this section really assists educators in their attempts to incorporate AudioBoom in their teaching practice, functioning as a guide for best practices or in a way as a forum for Continuous Professional Development
    Vocaroo on the other hand is on the exact opposite side from Audacity. With the most user-friendly interface that doesn't require any account, sign-in or registration process, program downloads or plug-ins/media players etc, short recordings and embeddings are turned into a fun activity. 
    Next up is Clyp.it. This tool combines the user-friendly interface of Vocaroo with the advanced options offered by AudioBoom. What this means in practice is that users can just visit Clip.it and press the big red button to start the recording without again having to download any additional plug-ins or even register. At the end of the recording, users can either continue by just clicking a button to directly download the file on their computer or select "advanced options" to "grab" the embedded code and post the audio file on a blog. Another option would be to sign up for an account which allows for cloud storage and later access for editing purposes. Last but not least, Clyp.it also comes in the form of an application for iPad, iPhone and Android users. 
     On the same length, SoundCloud  offers the same features as Clyp.it with the extra options to add an image to your recording, save your audio recordings to your personal SoundCloud storage account, add tags, descriptions and give instructions, have advanced administrative rights to allow or block downloads from students, accessibility/visibility/sharing capabilities in social media, a dashboard with all of the recordings and finally the ability to send messages and reminders to all of the recipients. On the downside, although it's completely free, it requires an account which can  prove to be discouraging for many students that might encounter problems with registration.  
      AudioPal is a podcasting tool for teachers with an intimidating or high pitched voice that always seems to upset learners! On a more serious note, this tool allows users to modify their voice (to an admittedly high number of US, English, Australian and even Indian accents in both genders), using an advanced text-to-speech software. Even more so, while this tool is completely free, it also manages to incorporate more cutting edge technology that allows for recordings via calling AudioPal's phone system! On the downside, when trying to embed multiple Podcasts in one blog post using this tool, I sadly found out that it confuses embeddings. In simpler terms, I ended up with a blog post that had the same podcast over and over again. (with the last embedding overwriting the previous ones). A small drawback though, if we consider that there is a plethora of podcasting tools that can actually liven up a blog post further motivating learners by braking "repeated" patterns.          
     This is a podcast (an audio file) on what AudioPal's text-to-speech sounds like.


    And this is a vodcast (audiovisual file) on how we can create a AudioPal Podcast using the text-to-speech interface. Notice that I am using a very popular screen capture technology called Snag.it


  Finally, Voki is a FREE service that lets you create customized speaking characters. The possibilities for speaking avatars are endless however the most important feature for me is the pedagogic value that this technology fosters. More specifically, Voki seems to help timid students bypass inhibitions that derive from "stage fright" or "past bad experiences" that involve negative criticism from peers for a mistake they made. Suggestopedia, a method of learning languages in the 1970's was one of the pioneers in this field that helped students gain confidence by assuming another name and identity. Nowadays, this notion has been brought to its full potential with Second Life, linking careful listening with the production of accurate speech acts.  


Underpinning the theory of using Podcasts, Vodcasts and Text-to-Speech tools.


    The need to go beyond old practices that included the use of a tape recorder or a CD player in the classroom to help learners develop their listening skills, has resulted in a large number of books and journal articles presenting innovative research in this area.  The move from Computer Assisted Language Learning in its various forms (Structural/Restricted CALL, Communicative/Open CALL, Integrative CALL) to Technology Enhanced Language Learning (TELL) and the Web 2.0 (Dudeney. G., Hockly. N., 2012, p.533-4) brought forth the idea about 'digital natives' and 'digital immigrants'. (Marc Prensky 2001)
  In psycholinguistic terms, Levelt (1993) first cited that speaking processes mirror listening processes, which basically means that students (as receptors) first analyse the speech signal-using acoustic/phonetic processors-and then produce a representation of these sounds in a "bottom-up approach". On the contrary, in terms of the social aspects of listening-as a "top-down" approach-, Levelt cited that when listening, learners' brain is capable of processing different elements of the message at the same time.
    At this stage, I would like to place emphasis on the fact that nowadays there is a wide spread consensus amongst teachers that these two approaches into helping learners develop their competence in listening and speaking need to co-exist in harmony. Podcasts, Vodcasts and Text-to-Speech tools are primed to help learners develop a specific skill-set which is eloquently presented in taxonomies produced by many scientists. Elements in these taxonomies include (Walker, A., White, G.,2013, p.31):

1. Perception,
2.Matching sounds to language items in an effort to move towards understanding meaning,
3.Interpreting meaning using knowledge of the world,
4.Dealing with information and
5.Interacting with the speaker.
    Even more so, Podcasts, Vodcasts and Text-to-Speech tools, help learners develop their strategies in (Walker, A., White, G.,2013, p.32):

1.Inferring (or in simpler terms guessing the meaning),
2.Seeking Clarification,
3.Predicting and finally

    In terms of speaking - as an integral part of listening-, these tools can help learners develop their (Walker, A., White, G.,2013, p.37):

2.Performing of Speech Acts (opinion giving, requests, denials, acceptances, comparing and contrasting etc)
3.Managing their Interaction (turn taking sequences, Q & A components etc)
4.Organising their Discourse (intonation, discourse markers etc).

    Putting theory into practice. 

    In the following lines, I will demonstrate just how easy it is to "tweak" an exercise into meeting the above aforementioned prerequisites. 
    One of the first tasks that I had to complete as an MA student in my ICT in ELT module was to access the Moodle Platform of my course and write 3 facts with one of them being a lie. The task was to try and "suss each other out". 
    A modified version of this task would be the following:

1. Learners are instructed to use AudioPal to create an audio file and send it to my email. I then embed it in the class blog. Learners are told to mention 3 facts about themselves with one of them being a lie. Emphasis must be given to the fact that they MUSTN'T REVEAL THEIR IDENTITY. Notice that, I am using a different Podcasting tool which is called Clyp.it.
    My main purpose for this is to build rapport by following a more individualized approach into instruction giving. In more simple terms, using my personal voice will hopefully motivate my students into trying out AudioPal's text-to-speech function. However, the underlining added value in this, is that, I am able to sneakily "prime" -or prepare, if you prefer- my (timid) students for the next steps, where they will have to use their own voice to produce an audio file. This linear, gradual passage "facilitation" through the use of technology is all what modern ICT in ELT is about.

2.Learners are then instructed to use Vocaroo to create a Podcast containing their guesses along with a full rationale that explains their choices. They are then instructed to send me this file via email so I can embed it in the classroom blog.

3.While the process of guessing is taking place, students are instructed to use Voki and create an avatar to present the 2 truths and the lie. When all members of the class are finished with their guessing, each student accesses the classroom blog and embeds his Voki avatar with the answers. 

                                                                 Audio and voice recording >>

4.The student with the fewest correct responses from other students is declared the winner (or the biggest "fibster")  .

    So the step sequencing in relation to the underpinning pedagogical values, can be illustrated in the following:

1.Using Clyp.it in step 1 manages to incorporate my own voice to deliver salient instruction giving, individualize input and engage learners and finally motivate students and build rapport. Furthermore, by asking learners to only use the text-to-speech function, I manage to "prime" my students to process stress, rhythm and intonation in response to written grammatical forms and place the language into context (and in my personal opinion, if I may, I really do think that we can't really do any better than this!)

3.After the "confidence building exercise" in step 1, learners use their own voice to make a podcast guessing on the "lie". Again notice that, Vocaroo which is by far the simplest, user-friendly tool that allows for multiple tries/recording, isn't a random choice here. Learners, take their time to record, listen and if not happy, try again to reach a final outcome, producing an audio file with their guesses.

4.As a last step, learners have the choice to either use their own voice or to use the text-to-speech function. The use of an avatar in Voki, again manages to motivate learners towards becoming more confident speakers with the sole purpose to prime them for opting to use their own voice. The added value in this is simply immense, especially in situations where learners have to present facts about themselves-I bet this sounds familiar to many teachers! (a situation which most of my learners experience when sitting their spoken exams module, where they have to speak about themselves for 2-but very critical- minutes as an "ice breaker").

Some "light" reading.

  1. Aisha Walker and Goodith White, Technology Enhanced Language Learning. Connecting theory and practice. Oxford Handbooks for Teachers, Oxford 2013
  2. Marc Prensky, Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants, MCB University Press, Vol. 9, no. 5, October 2001
  3. Willem. J.M Levelt. Speaking from Intention to Articulation. Massachusetts Institute Of Technology, 1989
  4. Gavin Dudeney and Nicky Hockly. ICT in ELT: how did we get here and where are we going?ELT Journal Volume 66/4  Oxford University Press, Special issue October 2012