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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