Edmodo : Schools’ social network !

For my final blog, I decided to write about an App that I discovered during my last computer Apps class and I think it is terrific. This App is Edmodo and I truly think that it is perfect for classrooms. Edmodo is a social learning platform website for students and teachers, but also parents. It is a free App that allows you to create a controlled environment which is appropriate for school. It is like an educational Facebook. Edmodo is primary a tool to create communication within the classroom between students and teachers, but also with parents. The only thing that you have to do with Edmodo is to have an account and a join or create a group. Then, when a group is created, people can have access to it by entering the code related to it. Only people with the code will have a access to the content shared on the group. There are multiple things that you can do with this tool from sharing a link to a website to uploading different kinds of document such as Word or PowerPoint which are the most commons.  The principal benefits that Edmodo can have on your classroom will be presented in this blog.

 

First of all, with Edmodo, students can have access to their gradebook and can see their academic progress. For example, you can publish a quiz and when it has been corrected, students will receive their grade in their gradebook which is a fantastic thing. So many schools don’t have an academic portal yet, so having the possibility to give the grades to your students before they receive their final school report is a very good thing. As a teacher, I want my students to have a progression throughout the year and if they don’t receive results before their school report, they won’t know if their learning strategies or techniques are right. At the beginning of the year, I would give the code to the group to my students’ parents, so they will also have access to it. Parents want to be implicated in their children’s learning, but if you don’t give them indications about their results, they won’t be able to do so. Having the results of the exam of their children is an obligation for parents and I don’t think that having students write their homework or their results in their agenda is a very efficient way to do so. Like Mdm Ngiam Wee Heng, Head of Department for ICT and Innovation, West View Primary School says, “teachers find Edmodo especially useful when it comes to communicating with parents about homework done daily. Younger pupils tend to spend more time copying their homework into notebooks and they often copy the wrong instructions into their books causing a lot of frustration to the teachers and pupils. With Edmodo, all the teachers need to do is to tap on the application on their mobile phone, type the homework which needs to be done today and click ‘send post’. Before you know it, parents of that class would have received instant notifications on their mobile phone about the homework even before the child reaches home in the evening! Teachers observed pupils posting questions about homework which they are not clear of and you can expect an answer from a helpful classmate within a few minutes!” As you see, this app will allow communication between all the people linked to your students’ success which is, at the end, a perfect recipe!

Secondly, during all my blogs, I tried to find apps that I could use to have students interested about what is happening in the world and I think that Edmodo is perfect for that. I know that I said that this could be done on Facebook, however it is not every student has a Facebook account because of various reasons such as the fact that parents don’t want their children to go on social network which is a valid one. However, if Edmodo is presented to the parents as educational portal that will only serve the purpose of teaching, almost all your students will be able to create an Edmodo account. If I have the opportunity to use Edmodo in my classroom, I would give as an assignment to my students to read on a topic that I would share with them and ask them to comment about it. The fact that I ask them to comment about the situation in Russia for example (based on an article) is that I want to make sure that everybody will read it. I could also ask my students to share their articles which will create discussion in the group and will lead to the development of their critical thinking. Like Lizzie Pinard from reflective teaching says that Edmodo “gives learners the opportunity to express their thoughts, opinions and ideas related to a newspaper or magazine article and see what others think. This uses both receptive (reading) and productive (writing) skills, and enables authentic, communicative use of language between students outside of class time.” Children and adolescents have be taught basic general knowledge and using a platform like Edmodo is a good way to do so.

Thirdly, another benefit of Edmodo is the fact that they will be able to collaborate in small groups. I could, for example, place students in groups and ask to post their work on the class group because I don’t want my students to create groups for their particular team because that could cause problems with parents. So, by sharing their work with the whole group, other teams will comment on it which will considerably improve their work. Indeed, they will get criticized and they will have find ways to improve it. During all their life, they will be confronted to people who will try to help them improve in a particular area, so they have to get used to it and teamworking with Edmodo is a way to develop this social skill.   Doing teamwork and get peer-reviews can only help students to learn from their mistakes because a student that gives you a comment has more effect than if a teacher did it. Like Derek Oldfield from 2014 learners teaching learners says that he used Edmondo “as part of my learning management system (LMS).  Edmodo is the tool that allows me to incorporate more writing, collaboration, peer review, and assessment.  I design assessments that require students to demonstrate a deeper understanding of the skill/topic they’ve been working on through blended instruction.  It is important to incorporate assessment that can only be graded by a human.  Edmodo is part of the vehicle that leads my students towards creativity, justification, and relevance.  Before blended learning, I never felt I had the time to invest in engaging activities, assignment, and assessments that required my students to demonstrate a deeper level of understanding.” Students will develop higher comprehension of various topics and will improve their writing skills because of the things that Edmodo brings to the table which is peer-collaboration, the best way for students to improve according to all studies.

Futhermore, the fact that most students will be on Edmodo could motivate others to be involved in their learning. The peer pressure of being excluded of something is, most of the time, the only thing they need to get motivate for it. If, for example, I know that some of my students are not reading the books required in my class, I could create a book club in Edmondo in order to encourage students to read and discuss novels. They would be able to learn and to be rewarded for their efforts because other students could praise them because they did a good analysis of the book for example. This would create a craze for reading my books because everybody will want to have the best opinion about the book and share it on the wall of the group. Like Steve Hayden from Cammpus stipulates : “once signed up, the student has an open forum to discuss topics and post anything that might be relevant to the current classroom content.  Teachers have the ability to monitor discussion, post assignments or essential questions, and engage in discussion.  Students will feel excited about using an up to date classroom resource, which increases motivation.”

As you see, using Edmodo as the social network of your class will allow your students to improve in English, to develop their general knowledge, to get used to dealing with people and to get involved in their learning which is not an easing task. It will also help you to teach in partnership with parents which can only benefits your students.

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Storybird : Let the bird fly !

There are multiple apps to help students to develop their writing skills. One of the most interesting is certainly StoryBird. Basically, it is a storytelling tool in which students select pictures in a large collection of drawings made by artists in order to write stories. Students have the possibility to create any story about various topics by combining imaginative artwork made by artists and their own perception of them. It is entirely free, but at the end if they want, students and parents can buy the final product. In this blog, I will show how this tool can truly benefit students.

First of all, this app will truly put the focus on the essay writing and on the text that students will be writing rather than on the drawings that go with the story. So many times, I have seen students focus on which color the cat will be on the cover of their book instead of the content of their books. Now, with StoryBird, it will be impossible for students to suffer of the blank page syndrome and the time that they will save (because won’t have to find an idea or a manner that they will draw) will be used on the content of the story and the way it will be written. Like Hillerspires said in one of their articles, “Young writers often struggle with writing short fiction, especially fantasy. Coming up with an idea that they can convey coherently can be quite challenging. Using artwork to inspire or unlock an idea frees children to focus more on the craft of writing. The website has many stories that children can read as models before they write one of their own. Reading many good stories that have been published by other children their own age helps them see the possibilities for their own writing.” We could also note that the fact that they will be writing about beautiful drawings will increase their motivation for it.

Secondly, this app will allow students to develop their creative skills. Too many times students write on the same topics because they don’t have any idea or because they always see the same patterns. As a teacher if I ask them to write about what they want, they will write about things that they are familiar with, but if I use Storybird and I will provide them with new concept and new ideas. I want my students to discover about new things and to develop a critical thinking on a variety of subjects. Having them writing about different things that they are not use to will only benefits my students at the end. Like Smart Tutor Education Programs stipulates : “storybird promotes imagination, literacy, and self-confidence. Kids who play with words and pictures early in life tend to score higher in cognitive and aptitude tests later on. They read and draw more, and are better able to understand concepts and ideas. Plus, they become comfortable with the act of creation: turning nothing into something. In an idea-based society, that’s a key advantage.” At the end, students will have to be polyvalent when they will have to write anything in life because you cannot always stay in your comfort zone.

 Thirdly, a way that I would introduce this app in my classroom would be by asking students to create their story and then share it with other people in the class. There aren’t enough activities to help students to develop critical judgment. If they have the opportunity to critic other students’ stories, it will help them improve this particular skill that will follow them all their lives, but it will also help the writer of the story to improve his writing proficiency. Indeed, sometimes students don’t take teacher’s comment about their written production as serious as their peers. A student who is at the same level as you in English who tells you that your sentence structure is not correct will provoke changes in the student’s mind very quickly.  

 Finally, I talked about the fact that storybird can be really useful if you want your students to evaluate other students’ work, but what about creating a story with your peers? I really think that StoryBird is perfect app to ask students to work in teams. When they will be working on a story, students will develop English skills, but also personal skills because they will have to take their peers’ opinion in consideration, make compromises, etc. I think that students can truly benefit from working with another person. As an evaluator, you want your students to adapt themselves to different situations and Storybird will give you just that!  Like Edidatik stipulates in one of their articles : “it is possible for students to write part of a story in Storybird, and share it with someone else, who can then continue writing the story. This feature is well suited within the polyphonic use of teaching’’ Having a student to complete a story that was begun by another one will teach him that they have to understand the other person’s view which will follow them throughout their lives. 

Finally, as you see, StoryBird will help your students to find ideas and to focus on the process of writing, to see different kinds of concepts, to learn how to work in teams and to be criticized. As a future teacher, I can tell you that StoryBird will certainly be used in my classroom. 

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Socrative !

Multiple tools can be used in order to improve students’ English speaking skills and motivation. One app that is very interesting in order to achieve this goal is Socrative. First Socrative is an App that allows teachers to create exercises and games related to English and share them in their virtual classroom. They can create multiple choices quiz, true/false quiz and lots of other kinds of game. When the activities are created, students can log in their virtual classroom with their computer, smartphones and tablets and select the activities that have or they want to do. When the students have completed the activities, teachers can view the results of their students as a google spreadsheet or as an emailed Excel file. There are multiple reasons why this app has its place in a classroom and they will be discussed in this blog.

The first reason to use Socrative in your classroom is the fact that it allows teachers to have instant feedback on the effectiveness of their teaching. Indeed, Socrative can create a single response activities which will ask students to reply to a question or a survey without entering their name. If you ask a question to the students about the number of homework or if the activities are interesting in the classroom, no one will raise their hands because they will be feared that you use their opinion to lower their grades. However, if you ask them to reply anonymously, you will receive very interesting feedback that will improve yourself as a teacher and the ones who will benefit from it are the students. We always tell our students to improve and to work on their weaknesses, this also applies to teachers. Every study says the same thing, the classroom should be an environment in which students are fully comfortable in order to learn in the most effective way. Having surveys in which students tell how they feel and what can be improve is fantastic. Like Jen Carey from edtechteacher stipulates: ”we must constantly ask for feedback. Without regular student and teacher surveys, you do not know where they are. This is vital in understanding where they are, how they are progressing, and how to get where we want to be. This should not only occur throughout the year, but when implementing new projects. For example, you can survey students before a project and then after, you can ask students about their internet access at home (do they have it? is it filtered?), and do they enjoy how technology is used in class?” She raises a good point, if you ask them questions in order to know about themselves, it will help you to teach because a reliable link will have been created. If they see that you are trying to improve and to make the classroom as fun as possible, they will do the same. It is a win-win situation.

Furthermore, Socrative is wonderful tool in order to see if a particular concept has been mastered during a class. Indeed, you can create quizzes with multiple choice answers or true/false in order to evaluate their comprehension. If I’m projecting myself in the future, I can see myself asking students to go on Socrative before next class to answer the quiz about the past of regular verbs for example. When they will have done it, it will allow myself to reflect on my teaching and see what has been understood and what hasn’t. It will give me key information about what has to be taught during next class. This app could be perfect for flipped classroom for example.  Like Paul Marshall for edteachnews says: “I think this is good news though. Essentially, this reflects how aware students are of what I think the most important benefit Socrative offers is: you can monitor, at a glance, every single student in the room. You can see their progress and responses throughout the activity, and as a spreadsheet report at the end. We are used to this in summative tests and exams (which we usually have to mark manually), but it is eye-opening what a difference it makes to see so easily what every single student thought the answer was, as formative assessment during classwork activities.” Having the possibility to receive the results of those short quizzes will be very useful to see if some students are struggling. Indeed, using Socrative to track students’ progression will allow teachers to meet students who need more help. If you ask students if they are struggling, they will never tell you so. With Socrative, you will be able to see if they do their homework and the results to it which is not case if the only exams that they have are formative ones. If you ask them to do formative assignments regularly, you will be able to help them before they fail an important exam.

Another benefit of using Socrative in the classroom is the fact that it will increase students’ motivation to improve in English. Indeed, this app is really dynamic and it will not look like a boring homework for students. The fact that they know that they will have to respond to five multiple choice questions instead of a summary of last class as a homework will keep them motivated to do them. Before going on Facebook or on Miniclip, they will only have to log on Socrative and do their formative test. It is not a difficult task, isn’t it? Like Matan Talmi for the Israel Edition stipulates: “it is the easiest, most user-friendly site I have used, and it gives me so much feedback in an instant! The kids are very motivated. I am such a believer.”So, will our children have more fun in the classroom than we ever did? That’s up to startups like Socrative and others, and we’ll have to wait to see if they can transform the classroom.”  If teachers don’t create homework that students will be interested to do, you will never be able to motivate them to learn outside the classroom.

Finally, another feature of Socrative that I will use is the multiple choice quizzes. I know I have talk about it already, but another way that I would use it in my classroom is asking students to create quizzes. Indeed, I think that the best way to see if you have understand something is by teaching it to somebody. They would have to test each other which will create competition in your classroom. If I would like to go further, I would ask to create quizzes about general knowledge in order to get my students to follow politics or the actuality in general. By using Socrative, students will find it interesting to answer to their peers’ quizzes because it doesn’t take much time and it is fun. If you are not convinced that young people love to answer to general questions, you only have to look to the success of QuizUp and you will see that they LOVE it! As a teacher having my students to learn and to be interested in different subjects is perfect. I will repeat myself for the 1 253 time, I want my students to become efficient in English, but I want to see them grow as active citizens which will benefit all the fields of the society.

As you see, Socrative will allow teachers to improve and to help students improve in a fun manner.

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Elluminate me !

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Multiple tools can be used in education when you want to do video conferencing and to give online courses. One of the best tools in order to accomplish that kind of things is certainly Elluminate. It is a software which enables participants to connect and interact with other people on the web. You can talk with people if you use a mic, they will be able to see you if you have a webcam or you can simply chat with them. This technology allows the teacher to give courses to students and communicate with them in a virtual classroom basically. Elluminate tools include a private chat, a teleconferencing tool,a sharing tool and a whiteboard application. Elluminate is owned by Blackboard Inc and the tool is really designed for distance education and collaboration between users which is why it is used in multiple universities such as the University of Illinois. Elluminate can  be a really useful tool for an ESL classroom and you will see why in this text.

First, the fact that Elluminate will allow your students to connect and collaborate with other students from anywhere in the world is a wonderful thing. For the purpose of an English class, I really think that when two students who take English classes communicate with Elluminate, the benefits of it are endless. First, as a teacher, I want my students to develop their competency 1 which is “To interact orally in English” and it is exactly what they will  do! They won’t prepare a text like when they do an oral presentation, so they will have to use everything that they have learned during their courses and apply it in real time with real persons. The best way to learn a language is by practicing it and that’s exactly what they will have the opportunity to do. Furthermore, the fact that a student from Quebec has a weekly conversation with a student from England for example will allow them to discover new cultures and the things that they will learn about the world will follow them all their lives. The teacher has the obligation to include in his courses cultural elements and in this case, it goes beyond describing the reality of a child in China or in England. They will have the opportunity to learn from people living there ! Ed Gragert, a writer for the Huffintonpost, even says that “research has clearly demonstrated that authentic interaction with the world’s students across the curriculum results in enhanced learning, improved reading/writing test scores by our students and a heightened motivation to learn. A recent doctoral dissertation by an official of the Delaware State Department of Education found that teachers who took an online professional development course on how to use online technologies to connect with classes internationally exuded an enthusiasm for meaningful global connections that translated directly into enhanced student motivation to learn their curriculum subjects.” As you see, learning a new culture will increase their motivation for learning English and it will also allow them to grow as a citizen of the world. As a teacher, I want my students to become efficient in English, but also to become good future citizens and Elluminate can help me reach that goal.

Secondly, Elluminate can be a wonderful tool for teaching online things that students did not understand well in class. With Elluminate, you can create a virtual classroom in which you can share online videos about some difficult things that students have to learn. It is perfect for students who learn at a lower rhythm or who have learning disabilities because they will be able to watch the videos over again and understand as much as strong students who only had to be woken during the class.  The Black Hills State University says that Elluminate “is designed for those who have learning disabilities, Elluminate’s personalized settings allow for more time to read slides and provide explanations of visual content. Sessions can be recorded and viewed as many times as needed.” There is also the fact that you can give additional help to specific students or to the whole class when something is not understood well or before an exam. You only have to ask the students to connect to the virtual classroom and they will be able to hear what you will say about the different verb tenses for example, but also by seeing what you mean because you will have the opportunity to use the whiteboard application. It will be exactly like if they were in the classroom because they will be able to ask questions and follow on the board, but they won’t have to move from their house. Elluminate is perfect for teaching students who are often sick or cannot go to school on a regular basis. The teacher can teach students like if they were face to face. Like Sara Cordell, an English professor at University of Illinois says, “Elluminate Live! is interactive and enables me to feel like I’m in the physical classroom. The students feel very free to interject their own thoughts and ideas. One of the things we’re committed to at University of Illinois at Springfield is that our online programs should replicate our on-ground programs,”. When you can use wonderful tools like Elluminate, the gap between traditional teaching or online teaching is almost inexistent.

Thirdly, Elluminate can also be used for teamworking. There is no excuse for not being able to show up for a team work when you can use Elluminate because you can show up in the comfort of your couch. Almost all computers or laptops come with a webcam and a mic now, so the material won’t be a problem. Elluminate will allow students to cooperate even more outside the classroom because it will be easier to discuss or do a project with the help of this software. The fact that students will be able improve their communication skills in English because they will have more opportunities to talk with their teammates outside the classroom (instead of sending 1000 emails that doesn’t mean nothing) is great, but they will also improve their social skills because they will have to work with people which is a thing that they will do for the rest of their lives. As a future teacher, having a technology like that one will allow me to ask my students to do more team projects instead of individual projects because when you use Elluminate, the constraint of having to go to their partner’s house or at school to complete a project is ellminated. It will be as easy to work in teams as individually. Like Matt Haley, an instructor at the University of Texas in Austin says about the utilization of Elluminate “Students can communicate with each other in private channels or with the entire room, facilitating cooperative work even though the participants may be far away from each other in physical location.” Furthermore, there is also the fact that in this virtual classroom, students will be able to post questions on the forum, questions that can be answered by the other students. The fact that a student in the same situation as another one explain him difficult concepts is even more profitable because a lot of times, they will understand faster because the vocabulary will be more accessible and new strategies will possibly be acquired. Learning is truly enhanced through the act of teaching other and  it is demonstrated in Logan Fiorella’s study about the relative benefits of learning by teaching and teaching expectancy because she says that findings suggest that “when students actually teach the content of a lesson, they develop a deeper and more persistent understanding of the material than from solely preparing to teach “. An healthy classroom is a classroom in which you find cooperation.

As you see, Elluminate is a tool with tons of benefits for students and it also helps the teacher to be more effective.

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iPads in education

ImageSince the day it began to be sold on April, 3 2010, the iPad has revolutionized the way that people communicate, follow the current events, but also how they learn because the iPads are now more and more omnipresent in our classrooms. The iPad are, as you know, a line of tablet computers marketed by Apple. It serves as a platform for media such as music, movies and books. Basically, if you want to do various things with your iPad, you have to install Apps from their store: iTunes. Much like all the Apple devices which include iPod, iPhone, you will only be able to run programs approved by Apple on your iPad which will limit your access to some App. The iPad is designed to allow you to connect yourself on the Internet or on the network of your house, but also everywhere else where you have access to Internet which include schools. In this blog, we will see the pros and cons of having this technology in our school system. 

First of all, the iPad allows students to have access to multiple resources. Having an iPad in their hands give them the opportunity to be helped by multiple Apps that will, at the end, provide better school grades. Instead of having to go to a computer lab to search for information about a specific subject or how to write a specific word in English, you only have to use an App on your iPad that will tell you instantly. Having access to information will also help the teacher to include cultural references during his courses. Like it is specified in the “Instrument de développement professionnel” of the government of Quebec, the teacher has to act as professional, a critic and interpreter of objects of culture in the exercise of his duties. If he has the opportunity to teach students with an iPad, he will become more efficient because he will be able to guide his students towards cultural things and events that will bring a questioning in their head. In a survey about the use of iPad by Quebec in class, half of the teachers admitted that “it opened up better access to information, 40 per cent cited the easy portability of the devices, and about a third said it allowed for greater collaboration”. Having an easy access to information will put the focus on the content of the activity and what is being learned and not on how it will be possible to have information about a subject. Having the possibility to put your finger on a screen and instantly get information about the current events or historical events because you have the App of “ABC”, “Discovery channel” or “The New York Times” is a wonderful perspective.

 Secondly, the use of iPad will also motivate students to learn. Let’s be honest, reading a book is not as cool as going on a tablet to get the same content. Our job as teachers is to get students involved in their learning. If a student, because of the iPad, is excited by his learning, our goal is reached. All the studies say the same thing, a student who is motivated is a student who is going to learn. It is now their technology and they learn better when they use it because it is a common thing for them. Like Coleman Kells, principal of Amelia Earhart Middle School says,  “the iPad seems to help students better connect with the content at hand. Students’ interaction with the device was more personal. You could tell students were more engaged. Using the iPad was more normal, more understandable for them.” A text or a story on an iPad will definitely get their interest which will take their learning deeper.

Thirdly, after the presentation of Mark Miller in my Computer Apps class, I realized that iPad is a perfect tool for video creation. Using an App such as “Educreations” will help students to learn because of various reasons. For example, as a future teacher, I can already see myself explaining a lesson on Educreations and then share it will all the iPad in my class, so every time they have a question about the use of plural, they can go back and see the video that I did. I can also ask them to do a presentation on draw that they did on Educreations and explain it. The students who always stress out when they are in front of class will be able to reach their highest potential because they will only have to record their voice with their iPad. I know that we have to get the students able to speak in front of a class, but I think for some project it is useful to give the same opportunity to succeed to more shy students. Sandra Williamson-Leadley of the University of Otago College of Education in Dunedin, New Zealand says that the three main benefits of using Educreations in a classroom were that “the students were motivated and engaged, that students and teachers could use the recorded student assessment to promote dialogue by ‘going back’ and ‘going forward’; and that students could choose to “jot down” their thinking onto the iPad screen when problem solving”. Creativity is another competency that students have to develop and I think that iPad is perfect for that. Like I said before, they can decide to draw or to create anything on an App like Educreations, so sky is the limit when you ask them to be creative. For example, a thing that could be done with first grade students is asking them to build a rocket with different shapes and then ask them to describe their rocket with all the colors of the items. It will ask them to be creative, but also to improve their oral skills.

Fourthly, there are some drawbacks related to the use of iPad. The first one is obvious and it is the price. I really think that schools could invest their money in laptops and it will be a better investment, but if they are sold on the iPad that’s fine. My major drawback is the fact that students from elementary school to college, if not extremely supervised, will be distracted by this tool. If, for example, you ask them to use their iPad to do something with their iPad without clear instructions and rules, what do you think they will do? They will go on Facebook or play flappy bird. That’s the reality. Like I saw in my stage I, a pencil case which fall off a desk will get my grade 5 students distracted. What do you think an iPad could do? The study about the use of iPad by Quebec students stipulates that “the greatest challenge for the teachers, who found it a major headache, was that the touchpads provided distraction for the students. They enabled the students to do something other than listen to the teacher, and perhaps too easily so. Even at a young age, the students soon discovered the iMessage and networking functions that diverted their attention so frequently”. I really think that when it doesn’t add anything to students’ learning, iPads should not be used.

As you see, iPad, when used appropriately, can be a wonderful tool. The teacher only has to use the right Apps on it and when it is appropriate to do so. The iPad really reaches all the goals of an ESL classroom which are stimulating and motivating student’s learning. 

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The Smartpen, a dream come true !

Thanks to Annie Krespil and her presentation during the SPEAQ campus, I had the opportunity to discover an incredible teaching tool : the Smartpen. The Smartpen is not just a simple pen, hell no ! It is a computer which combines all four mode of communication (reading, writing, speaking and listening). When you buy the basic Smartpen which has a storage of 2gb, you will also receive a special paper with features already on it. For example, in the lowest part of the page, you will find a small ink and every time you will touch it, it will record what you say. There are many ways to use it effectively in and outside the classroom and some of them will be presented in this blog this week. I want to specify that, in this text, I will only talk about the advantages if a teacher has it because I think it is unrealistic to think that all students could have their own.  

The first benefit from using the Smartpen is the fact that, in your class, you can ask a student to take notes on the course that you give. For example, if you talk about the rules of plural, he will write the categories on the paper (and click on record) and then everything that you will say will be recorded. Then, it will possible to put the sheet on the portal or on google docs and it will be accessible for the students and the parents to go take a look at what they have learned during that day. The student can revisit instructions and particular points of a course as many times as needed to understand. We have to take into consideration that, as a teacher, some students are shy and will never ask a question if they don’t understand. By making the course notes available online, it will allow this kind of students to understand and to have access to help as much as the others. Furthermore, like I said if it is available online for the students, it is also for the parents who will be able to help their child in their homework because it will be possible for them to see exactly the explanations he received at school. We can also think that the Smartpen will be very useful for a student who missed the class because he won’t only receive a small review of what was seen in class and the exercises, but also spoken explanations of the teacher. Dr. Sam Patterson, an English teacher at Kehillah Jewish High School in Palo Alto, shows that it can be really effective in a school context because he says that he uses the Smartpen “to improve their understanding of difficult subject matter, such as antiquated vocabulary used by Shakespeare and Homer. The students write with the pens to augment their notes, while Patterson uses his to generate comprehensive files that he then shares with students who need help or were absent. He also creates mini-tutorials for certain lessons that students can refer to outside of class. Using the Smartpen clarifies instructions for students who might not have initially understood them” he explains.

From a psychological perspective, I think that the Smartpen will also allow the students to listen more to what the teacher says instead of copying what he writes on the board or on his powerpoint. Indeed, the Smartpen will make note-taking less stressful because it will eliminate the fear of missing something important that the teacher could say because they will all have access to everything on the net. The comprehension will be then, their major preoccupation. Like Andrew Leibs from assitivetechnology.com says “[The Smartpens] also remove the time-consuming task of transcribing a complete lecture by enabling students to access any part of a recorded lecturer by merely tapping on words.” Students with learning disabilities will truly benefit from that technology because if they struggle to follow the teacher or the lectures, they know that they will be able to listen to the lesson as many times as they want at home. Andrew Leibs says the same thing because he knows in class, “students with learning disabilities such as dyslexia sometimes struggle to keep up with class lectures. In the time it takes to hear, process, and write down information, the professor has often moved on to the next point. Giving an equal chance to succeed to every student is a value that every teacher should have.

Many students will also improve their listening comprehension by using the Smartpen. The fact that the teacher can put the instructions of a work online will give the students another opportunity to improve their listening comprehension because the more input you have on a particular thing, the best it is. Like Stuart Knox says in his essay about Smartpens in second or other language learning environments, “the  analysis of recorded native English speaker speech and analysis of their own recorded speech produced benef its in the areas of pronunciation, intonation and accent improvement. When students failed to understand native English presentations, they could repeatedly play back recorded presentations in order to achieve understanding. “ Listening to English speakers such as the teacher in a recording for example will provide learning benefits because things will be clearer for them. Encouraging the students to listen to a language in class, but also at home will help them in their development. 

Finally, the Smartpen can improve the students speaking skills because they will be able to evaluate their strengths and weaknesses by listening to their interventions in a group for example. Like Annie Krespil told us during the Speaq, when she asks her students to do a group talking activity, she asks one student to put a check with the Smartpen, every time a person talks. The result of this action is the fact that all the interventions of every student can be recorded. The students can thus have the opportunity to  evaluate their skills and try to see where they have to improve before the teacher tells them. It can also resolve a conflict if a student says that he did say something during an oral presentation, but in fact he did not. You have the proof in your pen.  Like Livescribe education says “ By expanding the use of evaluation form to include audio recordings, the evaluator can then go back and make instructional use of the recorded segments to reinforce positive behaviors or to instruct in areas that need improvement.” Sometimes the students will improve if he feels that he is not that bad after all and one way to make him feel like that is to show him that he is able take his place in a discussion. Furthermore, having the possibility to evaluate the students after the class (by listening to the recording of the teams) will allow the teacher to help teams the ones that are struggling and will incite the students to talk in English during all the period because they will be evaluated on what the teacher will be able to hear on the pen and not only what she hears during class. It will be the end of students who only talk in French or about their weekend.

 

As you see the Smartpen can be magic, but you have to know how to use it properly! 

 

 

 

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Google Drive, what a tool !

Google has always been a precusor in the world of technology.  Since its creation, the company has created multiple tools that literally changed the way that we interact, search and play. However, on April 2, 2012, the company changed the way that we keep and create school work by launching Google Drive. This tool allows students and teachers (and everyone who has a google account) to store documents such as word documents, powerpoint presentations or over 30 other file types. When you create a Google Account , you have 15 go enterely free on Google Drive and, as a future teacher, but also a guy who likes to use the best softwares and tools, it is wonderful to have everything at the same place which is the case with Google (Gmail, Drive, Calendar, etc). That’s why (on a more personal note) I don’t really use Dropbox anymore because why should I use an outside service when I can have everthing at the same place ? Let’s see why I really think that Google Drive revolutionized how I will be teaching.

There is the fact that the teacher can use Google Drive as a formative assessment tool because you can give feedback on the students’ work before the deadline. I’m not talking about evaluating, I’m talking about giving tips and tell the students how they can improve and if they are on the right track or not. Through the revisions history, it will be easy for them to see all the comments. Like Jennifer Carey who is the director of the academic technology at the Ransom Everglades School in Coconut Grove, Florida says “Instead of emailing documents back and forth (which is a huge pain with many opportunities for confusion) teachers can go quickly to Drive, find and open the student’s paper in the Drive table of contents, and make “live” comments and corrections on the student’s paper”. It really helps the teacher to be more productive because you don’t have to search for the students’ copies in your mailbox or in your folder anymore. There is only one single copy that can be modified as many times as they want.  I also learned, again by Jennifer Carey’s article that you can leave students voice notes which is fantastic. Sometimes when your comment is just too long or not clear enough, you can decide to incorporate a spoken comment in the Google Drive document. Like she says, this is a great way to provide broader feedback. Furthermore, if we talk about one of the most helpful thing for teachers and one of the most frustrating for students is the fact that you can clearly see if a student has worked on his project or not because you have access to the revisions history. They won’t be able to lie to you because you will have proofs of his implication in a project.

Secondly, as a student who graduated from high school three years ago, I remember that one thing that was frustrating was the fact that the only time that we could see all of our grades during a semester was when the teacher had to send the report cards to our parents. My future students will be happy to know that Google Docs has also a solution to it! Teachers can now create a sheet that will track all the student tests, so they could easily have accesss to them and see which competency they have to work on and improve it before the end of the semester. During my high school’s years, we could only see how well we did by the end of it. It has also the advantage to help the parents to keep track of their child’s score because sometimes, the teacher ask their students to bring their folder at home to show their results to their parents (like in my practicum 1), but who knows if they really did it ? By creating a sheet with all the results of their children, you have the possibility to share it with every person you want which includes the parents. At the beginning of the semester, you ask them to send you their gmail adress and then, you can share with them the course plan (which includes the due dates of the projects and the homework that have to be done) with the parents, so they can clearly see what their child has to do and he won’t be able to lie to them and say that he does not have homework or any type of lies. Like Todd Koren who worked in a high school for ten years and who is now a writer for The Yelling Center says “I often speak with parents and teachers about their struggles working with students who simply cannot seem to keep their assignments straight or meet due dates in a consistent manner. This software offers multiple free tools that can help students keep their work and due dates organized, as well as give parents and teachers ways to be supportive without actually doing the work for them.” One thing to keep in my mind as a teacher is to give the students a number on that sheet otherwise some mean students could use it to make fun of others.

Finally, the most interesting thing about Google Drive is the fact that you can share your documents with your teamates for a project. Before the arrival of Google Drive, the students had to do the work all together at the library or send to each other the copy of the work (who got modified over and over again). Now, with Google Drive, every member can modifiy the same copy at the same time and they will be able to see what everyone is doing (because it will appear in different colours). Goodbye to the time when doing a Powerpoint was complicated to do in team because it wasn’t possible to see everyone at the same time. Furthermore, what every teacher loves about Google Drive is the fact that they can ask their students to do peer review like I do in a course this semester. A lot of studies say that you understand your writing mistakes better when someone who is in the same situation as you explain it to you. With Google Drive, the students will be able to read, comment, modifiy each other’s work which will make their work better and they will improve faster. Like the teaching center of the Washington University in St-Louis says “engage in “peer review,” when well planned, can help students improve their reading and writing skills, and learn how to collaborate effectively”.  Futhermore, as a teacher, I will see the level of my class improving because, before a work is handed in, it will have been read at least two times. Nate Green, an educator and a writter for http://www.edsocialmedia.com says that “often, I will pair up students who are proving a similar thesis. Other times, I will pair up students based on ability. Peer editing with Google Docs allows me to watch the discussions that go on between students during the editing process. It’s hard to doubt the effectiveness of peer-to-peer discussion in learning. My students have made leaps and bounds this year in their writing skills.”

As you see, it is hard to doubt of the effectiveness of Google Drive because it simplifies the life of the students, but also the one of the teacher.

If you want to learn how to use Google Drive, there is a very useful link ! 🙂

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