Archives for category: Non classé

Regular technology-free classes have proven to not be as effective as they were before. In fact, it seems that the more technology advances, the least likely it becomes that any teacher would permanently look away from it to teach their class. Of course, spending variously long lapses of time away from any technological teaching tool can sometimes be beneficial to both the teacher and their students. However, a complete separation of the classroom from current technology is neither very plausible nor especially advised.

However, a question which is not often asked is whether a classroom can rely mostly on technology. Is it possible for a teacher to carry out their teaching activities by using nearly exclusively computer-based or console-based programs and games? When I look at the present level of technological development, I tend to think that no, it would not be possible. However, various things may be done with this readily available technology we currently possess. Voki is one of such tools which the teacher can use. To be able to use it for the classroom, the teacher should make sure that they have access to the Classroom version of the website. The price for this access is of an approximate value of barely over $2 a month.

One of the uses for this tool is organizational in essence. More precisely, it helps the teacher organize their class into something which can be more effectively managed. To be able to use Voki Classroom to organize the class, the teacher needs simply enter the name of each student he or she teaches into a list. This list can then be re-organized into groups so that each class has a specific group. Furthermore, by entering the names and separating them into groups, the teachers allow themselves to have access to various other tools. For instance, if a teacher would like to have their students create an oral presentation on any subject, they can have the students use Voki to complete it. To do so, the student or the group of students only needs to use the avatar which they had already created, or a brand new one. Various other tasks of the like may be assigned and carried out easily, as this website offers the teacher the possibility to monitor the progress of their students.

In addition to this, other means of using Voki exist. However, the teacher who wishes to use it should be wary of two things: the looks of the site and the time some menial tasks may take on there. While the main site is rich in information, the way it is presented on the home page can be intimidating. It is packed with information, and can reduce if not destroy the interest of some of its potential users because of it. However, once this first threshold has been passed, another one awaits. This one comes from the students. When creating their avatar, one thing which might be a problem is the saving mechanic of the website. Indeed, once they have started working on their avatar to the website or another one for a project, they cannot save and continue it another day. If it is not handled properly, this feature can become a problem, if not necessarily a hard one to solve.

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Last week, my Computer Applications teacher presented to the class a list of websites. A very specific one caught my attention, and I feel like I should talk to you about it. This beautiful website is called Storybird.

You might be wondering why I am talking to you about this website specifically. What would have brought me to present you this website today? This is what I will tell you right now.

Basically, Storybird is a website designed to create stories. Art is already available to the write on this website, and any of it may be chosen to add to the story. The fact that this art is already available can be useful, since if you use this website, your students will not need to focus on drawing the pictures.Instead, they will only need to make sure they make a nice story. It allows them to focus on the content of what they are writing.

This makes Storybird a beautiful tool to use for writing assignments. By enabling the student to focus on the task at hand, which is writing, it allows them to create stories more depth, or at the very least with more content. On top of this, the presence of the art is something which will most likely help the student come up with an idea.

However, they are not the only reasons why Storybird may be a good tool for writing assignements. For example, Storybird can be useful for students who are having a hard time reading; when the text gets too complicated for the reader, they can rely on the picture to know what is going on.

On top of this, you do not even need to create an account to use Storybird. However, it still is recommended your students do so if they want to keep, publish or share the stories they created.

Sometimes, it can be hard for a teacher to know what they should do as the next activity. We don’t want to start being redundant, so reading and writing texts and oral presentations don’t really seem interesting. We also want to make sure the students actually learn their English, because, well, that’s why they’re in our class, isn’t it? Sincerely, making the right kind of compromise between these two problems can seem a bit tricky. Well, allow me to give you an idea. What if you asked your students to do a video?

Various ways of applying this idea are present. The video can be about monuments, it can be a talk-show, or it can even just be an oral presentation that the students record before handing it in. All these ways of presenting and organizing the video make for a nice bit of fun work.

Many reasons can come defend this idea. First, it is recognized that students tend to be less stressed when they talk about things they like. This applies if the video the students do is about something they tend to appreciate, such as movies, games, sports, or books. There even are those students who will gladly take part in the making of the videos, not as much because they like the subject as because they like making videos. It is easier this way to make students interested in the completion of the project. A second reason why the making of a video can be an evaluation situation which would be good for the students is that when they record the material they will present, they can make errors. Of course, during an old-fashioned oral presentation, students will still be allowed to make errors in their speaking of English. However, the fact that they can change the erroneous bit for something that will be error-free is very interesting for the student. In short, it allows them to give and present the best of themselves. It is something that is even truer if we look at the third advantage of oral presentations in video form: the reduced presence or absence of stress. When students have to do an oral presentation in English, they can feel highly uneasy, shy, or stressed. It is something that most of them will feel; this kind of stress tends to affect students when they present in front of the class without the English language proficiency they feel they should have. The video format solves this problem; by allowing students to do take after take if they mess up, they tend to be less stressed when it comes down to presenting something. Once more, they feel like they can present the best of themselves and their level of mastery of the language.

On another note, this can be highly useful for the teacher too. First off, the fact that this oral presentation is recorded allows the teacher to take highly detailed notes on the student(s) performance which they are currently evaluating. If they are not certain of something specific, they can rewind. They can also fast-forward if they already saw a part they are certain of. In this way, the teacher can truly feel like they gave their students the grade they deserved the most, since re-visiting grades which were already given allows the teacher to make sure the first grading was accurate. In link to this, they can also explain in details to a curious student what the latter did right and wrong in their presentation; in short, the teacher can feel like they are helping their students as much as possible to develop their oral English proficiency.

To set this project in motion, various tools can be used. First off, to record their oral presentation project, the students can use any type of video-recording tool, really. However, it is not recommended to use let them use a phone to record it if they are self-recording their project, since it does not allow for a good enough sound and video quality. If the videos are 3D manipulation and creation projects, the student have at their disposition various good free programs, such as Blender, Sculptris, or Houdini Apprentice. In association to those, they can use programs which will record the audio part of their project. The most renowned and recognized of these is Audacity, but others can easily be found.

On top of this, the teacher which has already implanted mobile devices (see my article on mobile devices for more details) as tools for the classroom have other tools at their disposition. These include but are not limited to FiLMiC Pro, or 8mm Vintage Camera to record video, SoundCloud or Recorder Plus HD for audio, and Autodesk123D Sculpt, or iDough for 3D design and animation.

Once the teacher is started with these project, they should see more of their students become much more interested in such a project than in regular exchange or old-fashioned oral presentation task.

As a teacher, it becomes less and less unusual to see a student enter the classroom with a mobile device: an iPod, a tablet (Apple or other), a smartphone. Most of the time, the first reaction to this situation will be to keep them out of the eyes and minds of the children or adolescents that are in the class. This course of action is mostly caused by the general understanding that these mobile devices are distractions which drag the kids’ attention away from the learning. However, this view of the new gadgets at the disposition of a teacher’s pupils is, in all honesty, incomplete. As it is feared, mobile devices may, to a certain extent, be a danger to the necessary level of focus required in a class to be able to properly understand and retain the given material. Nonetheless, the case of these machines does not stop there. On the contrary of what some may think and say, iPads and their technological companions come with various ways to enhance the classroom experience for the students.

Depending on what you want to do with your students, the applications needed for the students to have on their devices will vary. The first question to be asked is what they will be using it for. Five broad choices are offered to you, which define which applications should be added to your or your students’ tablet: remembering/understanding, applying the knowledge, analysing, evaluation, or creating. Once categories have been chosen, the teacher can start adding specific, preferred applications on the educational mobile devices. However, it is necessary to make sure that each application is useful to the specific student; after all, everyone learns in a different way(https://www.apple.com/ca/education/ipad/teaching-with-ipad/). Some will have an easier time if they follow the class from their tablet, reading an article. Some may find the understanding of the material easier if they listen to the same material, for example if it is a video. Kinesthetics will need this same material to be experienced, maybe through the use of a game or a 3D model of the material presented. The list could continue for a long time, however I believe the meaning behind my words is clear; each student needs to be accounted for. In a perfect world, each student’s personality, strengths and weaknesses need to be taken into account. Even if it is realistically not quite possible, a teacher should still work hard to make sure the students are given the tools they need to learn.

Before getting started with the material, however, a precaution should be taken. As the web develops, there come more and more occasions for the students and the teacher to use it as a tool for teaching and learning. Various websites offer presentations, 3D maps, puzzles and others to help the process. Nevertheless, a teacher should understand that the internet may not always be very friendly with students, even more when they are very young. Precautions should always be taken to keep students away from websites that may be unwanted and possibly harmful to them.

Once this precaution has been taken, you are free to go, and so are the students. Enjoy your and your students’ time learning with the aid of portable devices!

Lately, various interactive board have invaded the market, each trying to outrun the other in their run to the classes. However, what is it that makes them so interesting to teachers? Let’s find out.

Even though they first came out in 1991, interactive whiteboards only recently were adopted throughout the Québec school system. Most of the supplies are constituted by two kinds of boards: the SMART board and the Promethean ActivBoards. While the second seems to have made the first breach in the field of education of our part of the country, its SMART counterpart is presented as the current best seller. Of course, some older ActivBoard whiteboards can still be found in some classrooms, but their number is extremely few if compared to the SMART presence.

SMART boards are known for their interactive capability. This interactive capacity is triggered by either fingers or the tools given to the teacher using this kind of whiteboard. It can be triggered by both interactive touches at once, without it affecting the precision or efficiency of the touch. Two people can manipulate on-board tools, which makes it highly useful for classroom activities involving the students; the pupils can draw, write, or make an object move, depending on what the teacher chose to make his students do to improve their knowledge of the material presented. It basically can do anything your chalkboard and your computer can do once combined they are combined. All and any activity done on this board allows the child to use the material he already learned about. This allows him to retain the knowledge, as he changes from being a learner to being and experimenter.

The SMART board is easier for use by the teachers from Quebec than the Promethean products because of its design. When given a new tool, a teacher is not much inclined to testing it for hours to understand how it is supposed to work. A teacher needs to know it now, so he can focus on making more and better material for his students. This is how the SMART board is winning the game. Its design is easier to understand the Promethean products’ one, since most of the essential buttons are visible from the get go. For instance, a pen tray detects what you chose as a tool, without the user ever needing to select the pen from the software. As they say, it’s a “smart” board.

However, even with a Promethean whiteboard, the class can be presented well. The SMART choice is only a preference.

As the video games industry grows bigger and bigger, teachers might start to worry about what they should do to keep all those kids they are in charge of off video games. However, maybe they shouldn’t. As it turns out, video games could be very useful as a complement to a teacher’s activities.

            The reason behind this reasoning is that video games, from the fact that they are what they are, bring forward more than one convincing argument (http://dh101.humanities.ucla.edu/DH101Fall12Lab4/archive/files/6070f0882cc89baa5a12992aaea56028.pdf). For instance, one of them says that the interactive capacity of any video game can and most probably will help the kid learn, as interaction has been recently found to make learning easier. Plus, in most games, the child will be able to tell right away if his answer was right; the game will either keep on going if the answer of an action is right, or stop if it was wrong. Of course, a game can change the precise content of its reactions to the child, but the result stays the same. This is very valuable feedback for the kid, which can be given even when the teacher is not there. If used properly, it can do wonders.

            As an additional advantage, video games can sometimes be made by children. How would that help? Well, as some schools and organizations demonstrated making a game is another way for the kid to learn the material it is supposed to know. By doing this, the kid interacts with his environment, reinvests his knowledge, and even exercises his social skills, if the making of the video game is done with a team. On top of this, another advantage of this type of task is that is can be used for any material. In French or English, they might do an RPG, writing out all the dialogues, while in Mathematics for instance, they can make puzzle games.            

            As a counter argument however, as with any new technology, a teacher should do his best to know how to properly use this available help to its best. If he does not, there might be bad outcomes, such as interesting the kid enough in video game that he will become obsessed by them…

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When someone tries to associate “Wikipedia” and “education”, most people will rear up and start complaining, wondering what ever could be wrong with the fool that dared to try to do such a thing. After all, who in their right mind would ever even give a single look at this crazy idea? A teacher bringing up the idea of such an association should be shamed and exiled.

Of course, I exaggerate. As far as I know, no one would react so violently to the idea of using Wikipedia as a tool for teaching. However, most teachers would way need more than a little convincing to reconsider their negative opinion towards the online encyclopedia as a learning and teaching tool. This website and kids’ education just does not add up in their mind. They cannot really be blamed for this. After all, even though Wikipedia has numerous qualities, it also has many flaws.

One of the biggest flaws of this tool is that, as much of an encyclopedia as it is, Wikipedia is designed by and for the crowds. Sincerely, the second part is not a problem, really. All it means is that this website is designed for anyone who wishes to learn, an objective which is worthy of respect. It can bring incredible minds’ ideas – a.k.a. any mind’s ideas – to fruition, just like it did for fifteen-year-old Jack Andraka. Basically, this young man created a way to diagnose Pancreatic Cancer rapidly, easily and for little money, and he did all that “without even knowing what a pancreas was, using just Google and Wikipedia.” Sincerely, this could make anyone dream.

However, even though these success stories can happen to anyone, there still is a drawback; the fact that Wikipedia is designed by the crowds.  What this means is that if someone feels like changing something in any article, or like creating a new one, they can. No matter what the change or the addition is, it can be done. If the change is faulty, it will most likely be deleted in the following days; however, it will still have misinformed many interested readers during all the time it will have been displayed on the site. As an example of this, we may present a Middlebury College teacher’s experience; when correcting one of his students’ works, he noticed that “several” of them were citing the same incorrect Wikipedia source! The precise number of those “several” students is not given, but it still is too many. Misinformation is hard to set right, even more if it has been taken from a trusted source, such as Wikipedia in this case. The damage it can cause to a student’s knowledge can be palpable, and may even be extended to later acquired knowledge, depending on what the youngster has been misinformed on. After all, one must not forget that knowledge is acquired like any building is built; strong bases will make for good further knowledge, bad or weak bases will make for a shaky business.

Nonetheless, there is still potential in Wikipedia, even if we take into consideration that anyone can modify its content. It can even be more useful than Encyclopedia Britannica. The thing is, Wikipedia is a behemoth. Sure, it can be heavy and clumsy, but its potential still remains incredible. To give you an idea, allow me to compare with you some of the numbers from Britannica with the one of our online encyclopedia. To start with, we might want to look at the number of articles on Wikipedia; while there are 500,000 entries in the Britannica, in only one language (as far as I can tell), there are over 10 million of entries in Wikipedia, published in over 253 languages. However, that’s not all. There is also the content. As it seems, the fact that Encyclopedia Britannica is only written by a handful can make it go only so far; when compared to articles on Wikipedia, it presents only half as many words in its entries than its free, internet-only counterpart. This makes Wikipedia such a mastodon that there must be a part of it that can be used.

Well, it turns out there really is a part that can be used. Or rather, all its parts can be used, in different amounts, and with circumspection. While Wikipedia can be dangerous, we can compare it to a puffer fish meal; if it is handled properly, it will come out beautiful; if it is handled poorly, it can potentially be (figuratively) deadly. However, there are uses that can be made of it for educational purposes.

One these uses is better applied with high schoolers and even younger kids. Sincerely, the idea is very simple; use Wikipedia for what it was built: researching information. In fact, according to a research carried out by Education Next, it turns out that Wikipedia can be a fairly good resource when a student wishes to research on a topic involving factual information, such as History. This is quite the relief, as it also turns out that for 100 subjects tested by the same people, 87 out of those were the first result to appear on Google, 12 were the second result, and 3 were the third result. Considering that this means that a total of 100% of the researched entries were found in the top three, knowing that most of the information is good can be quite the relief. However, some precaution still has to be taken when using Wikipedia to search for information for your k-12’s and lower grades’ students, as those results used in the research were all highly researched, and thus more likely to be right, as high traffic articles tend to be more accurate. This can turn out as a problem if your students venture in the less known parts of Wikipedia. Which is why I would recommend you to keep them on the featured and good articles. Chances can be taken, but it would be better not to take too many.

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As of late, I have been introduced to a new tool. This tool is called Popplet. It is both a website and an application for the Ipad. For a reason I was not quite sure of, it seemed to be gaining more and more popularity. Curious as I am, I could not resist taking a look at the reasons behind such a general interest. What exactly made Popplet so interesting? And, more importantly, was it viable as a teaching and learning tool? The answer all of internet seems to be giving me is yes. But why? What makes Popplet such an amazing tool for teaching-learning situations?

First off, Popplet is free: completely and absolutely free. They ask for no inscription fee, and provide anyone who decides to use their services with the possibility to keep five Popplets at a time on their personal server, still for no more than $0. On those, they let you use all the features they have, without any backdrop. Also, they give the option to increase the amount of Popplets one person’s servers can hold from five to… well an infinite amount. They ask 3$ for one month, or 30$ for a year. It might seem like a lot to some, but when you compare it to other things that we pay without having an absolute need of it – an Xbox Live one-year membership for 60$, a 35$ book every month… – it’s not that much. It becomes even more interesting, however, if we think about all it can do.

Talking about it, what can Popplet do, exactly? Many things. Basically, Popplet is a software used to make mind maps. That’s all it does, ever. However, this is not what makes it popular, and it does not explain why I said it could do “many things”… See, the applications of Popplet are actually numerous. Think about it for second. What can a teacher, or a student, do with a mind map? Some people thought about this. The ideas they came up with are rather interesting.

For instance, the idea was proposed to preparing, and present, an oral through the use of Popplet. In there, the student can throw text, images, drawings, videos, links… No matter what he presents on, the student can illustrate, explain and present with ease, no matter the subject. If they present a movie genre, they can add clips from YouTube or Vimeo, or add the pictures from a good movie representation of the genre, or one of their favorite actor. If they present themselves (which is an activity the teacher can take part in, too), they can describe their childhood, present videos of their hobbies, or even present pictures of themselves when they were younger. Even for written assignments, Popplet seems ready to help, as it can give the writer a much more through view of what is good and what is wrong, what is complete and what is incomplete in his or her ideas.

Best of all, even if those projects can be done alone, another nice feature of Popplet is that it allows teams to work on the Popplet project. To make a team work on it, one of the members has to create the Popplet, then send invitations to the other team members through e-mail. Once they’ve accepted the invitation, they can access the Popplet at any time. And since each popple (Popplet bubble) has its creator’s name written on the top left of it, there is no cheating the teacher. The latter can make sure all students in the team worked on the Popplet, and give participation points accordingly.

No matter how good it is in general however, Popplet still has flaws. One of the biggest issues with it is the connection to internet. As I experienced myself, the website keeps crashing, or , in the case of the Ipad application, plain not connecting to internet. It still tells you right away when the connection is lost, but it’s still highly frustrating. Another bad point is that, in the case of the app (I do not know if it also applies in the case of the website), the Popplets from the free version do not follow when the account is upgraded to the paying version. It can be incredibly frustrating, even more if the Popplet is a big one and/or one that took a long time to be made. If you add this to the fact that a Popplet’s title cannot be changed after creation, it can make the experience highly negative for the new user…

No matter if you go for it or not, you can always try Popplet out by running the interactive demo. This will give you an idea whether you find the good sides attractive, or the bad sides discouraging. Or maybe you’ll decide for a slight use, based on both the goods and the bads…

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Some of the most used and developed websites on the Internet are social medias. These include Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Blogspot, and many more. As a matter of fact, they are so popular with students in general, that teachers and school staff tend to completely avoid the use of those potentially useful tools. Of course, as for any tool, they flaws, and more than one. Some will say that they distract kids, which is very true. Others will bring forward that the chances of meeting dangerous individuals (cyber bullies, sexual predators, even other kids which would have a bad influence…) are brought high enough to be a very serious concern. Some even question the idea of generalizing the use of social networks for educational based on the fact that not all kids want or know how to use social networks. None of those arguments is groundless.

However while some say this, others bring forward quite a different set of arguments. On the more positive side, we could for instance say that those social networks can easily work as links between the students, or between these students and their teacher. For example, when using Facebook, students can help each others on harder questions, they can ask questions to the teacher efficiently and with less feelings of stress and fear of being judged, or they can have an easier time synchronising their group work, even if they cannot meet. Another idea would be to use this site, or Twitter, to post homework assignments, or even, maybe, make an assignment involving those social networks.

Many more arguments from each side may come in and change someone’s views on the subject, but whenever the school decides that, yes, they want to use the social networks, some principles should be followed. First, students should taught about Internet safety, and an online guideline should be followed, telling them what is wrong and what is right to do on social networks. “Why?”, might you ask. The answer is quite simple. Kids do not always understand what is good or bad on Internet. They do not come into the world, knowing how to act on social networks. This has to be learned; and it is part of the school’s duties to help the students understand this information. As much as parents should teach their children how to stay safe and socially open on social networks, teachers are, too, “parental figures”, even more if the kid is very young. They are a part of the chain of learning, and should act as such.