The use of Youtube in the classroom.

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Since its creation on February 14, 2005, Youtube really changed the way we live. If we look back at the way we were listening to our favorite music 10 years ago, we realize that the change is radical. This video-sharing website has invaded the music industry and it begins to invade our classroom because Youtube has multiple benefits for students if the teacher knows how to use it smartly. Anybody who has access to internet can go on Youtube and watch videos from anyone in the world (which results in a high number of bad videos I agree), but also from broadcast networks such as CBC, Discovery channel or ABC that have their own Youtube channel that shares very interesting videos.

As an English teacher, you have to teach grammar, punctuation and writing techniques, but you also have to teach the culture behind the language. Youtube can be a way to reinvest material that was seen in class. Amy Palko, a teacher who is specialised in American literature, said about how she teaches with Youtube that she found clips “particularly helpful when teaching the 20th-century American short story, as many of the narratives the course focussed on dealt with historic events for which there exists a wealth of material. For example, filming that depicts the Great Depression and the Civil Rights Movement is available on YouTube, thus allowing students to attain a much deeper understanding of many of the themes recurrent throughout the short fiction”. Some students can’t truly understand something without seeing it. Following the “Programme de formation de l’école québecoise”, it is the responsibility of the school to adapt the formation to the capacities, the talent and the interests of every student. For example, if I ask them to read a book about the feminist literature, I need to be able to provide other material than only a book to help students who don’t understand very clearly. Youtube can really help me to do that because I could use videos about it, so they could see exactly what it looked like.

As a future teacher, I want my students to become good english speakers, but also active citizens. I can already see myself beginning a class with a very popular video by Justin Bieber or Lady Gaga in which we could see the lyrics and try to analyze them. This could lead to a debate about the pertinence of saying that kind of things. We could talk about the pressure of the society on the ladies, the relationship between man and woman, etc. It could also lead to politic debates like Amjad Ali, who teaches citizenship and law at The Bulmershe School in reading, does. He says  that he simply displays “some newspaper headlines with a keyword/sentence missing. I may play a YouTube clip, or even wear/hold/present a prop. I then ask students to think, pair, square and then share what they think the stimulus is about. This is an immediate way to get students talking and discussing politics“. We want our students to talk, but can’t they please talk about serious topics?

There is also the fact that Youtube can be used as a way that children practice their English. For example, 1st graders learn a lot by singing songs about various topics, so you could post on the portal of your school, the Youtube videos of the songs they have to practice.  It will allow the parents to practice those songs and those vocabulary words with their children at home (songs such as Brown Bear, Sally the Camel or From Head to Toe). In my practicum 1, this is exactly what the teacher does and it works pretty well.  They also post on Youtube (with a link to their portal), activities that they did at school.

 Finally, as a teacher, it is hard to make quizzes and tests fun and interactive, so that’s why Youtube created a tool for that. It is called “spotlight” which will make a video that you created fully interactive. For example, if I create a video about the rule of the 3rd person singular, I make it interactive by doing a quiz in which I  ask them to complete some sentences. If they pick the right answer, you can add a funny picture or a link to a videoclip of a song like “Celebration” by Kool and The Gang to congratulate them (reinforcement), but if the student is not right you show him the right answer and a link to a Youtube video that will show him the rule of the 3rd person singular (there are a lot of videos about it). From a future teacher perspective, this tool from Youtube is truly great because every student will learn at their own rhythm because they receive a personalized answer. I don’t think that, one day, students will be excited about doing an exercise about grammar, but, at least, it will be less painful. There is a link to a website that will show you how to make interactive lessons with Youtube.

As you see, Youtube is a valuable tool in the classroom, but you have to use it wisely and you have to be allowed the access to this video-sharing website because multiple schools block it.

 

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SpeakingPal, a revolutionary app !

Multiple tools are now available for teachers who wants to improve the efficiency of their teaching. One of them is directly answers a need that students have, which is feedback on their speaking skills. As a teacher, unless you do an oral presentation every course, you can’t truly evaluate and give complete feedback to every student on a regular basis because the courses only last 60 minutes. Speaking is one of the most important, if not the most important thing that students need to acquire in English. One of the solution you would say is to ask other students to evaluate their peers on the proficiency of their speaking, but unless your students are native speakers, they won’t be able to really tell if the pronunciation was right or not. So, we have to look for other alternatives and one of those is SpeakingPal.

Available on Itunes and Google Play, SpeakingPal is an app that consists of video scenarios such as asking for directions, searching a book at the library or asking for information at the bank. When you begin a scenario, a virtual speaker will act, for example, as the cashier of a bank. He will ask you questions about your bank account and you will have to respond with one of the provided answers on the screen. Every answer will be analysed and an evaluation with a color-coded bar will be given (ex : green means that the pronunciation was very good, yellow means that it was average and red means that you have work to do). The sentences that didn’t go very well can be done again and you’ll also see which words were well pronounced and which not. There is even a native speaker on the screen who can show you the perfect pronunciation. The average length for a scenario is about 2 minutes. So, as you see, the app will improve the student’s skills because he will practice, but also because he’ll receive feedback. Image

The Usa Today said about the app that “because it’s free to try, SpeakingPal is an ideal download for those who’d like to practice speaking English in real-world scenarios and receive immediate feedback. If you can get past the cheesy humor, this app should help those wishing to improve their English-speaking skills via their tablet or smartphone.” As a future teacher, I can already see myself in a classroom or a computer lab, asking my students to open the app and do different scenarios. It will help them to improve their pronunciation faster because they will directly see on the screen which words are difficult for them and how they can improve their pronunciation (by following the native speaker on the screen). It will also show them real-life situations in which they will have to speak English throughout their lives. It is true that, in a perfect world, I would sit with every single students and listen carefully to the way they pronounce the “ed” at the end of the past of regular verbs or how they say “hippopotamus”, but since cloning is not available yet and I still have 25 student in front of me, I need to find another way to teach my material and it is one of those. Furthermore, the app seems to work pretty well in loudly places such as a classroom like you can see in this video. So, once again, it will be easy to adapt it in a classroom where everybody talks at the same time.

Like I said, I really think that it is a very good app, but it is not a perfect solution. Right now, I don’t know if I’ll have a job in private school in which the students have more costly material or in a public school in which I’ll be confronted to some poorer students who barely have a pencil and an eraser. Using SpeakingPal will require a tablet such as an Ipad or a Nexus 7, so the type of school that I will teach in will influence greatly the possibility to use it or not. However, if it is possible, the use of Ipad or any tablet can be very interesting if well controlled. We need to make sure that, as a teacher our students will go on the right app and not on Candy Crush or Angry Birds. The use of Ipads, for example, will catch their attention more than a piece of paper. They will pay more attention to what we are trying to teach them. Ashley Wainwright, a writer for SecurEdge Blog, adds on the effect of Ipad in the classroom that “teachers can reinforce what is being taught with the iPads allowing student to practice certain skills at their own level and pace.” Every student will be able to learn at his own rhythm and it will lower their anxiety to make mistakes.

Futhermore, as Tim Gifford, a writer for EltJam.com, notes in reference to SpeakingPal that the “Speaking sections’ of lesson spreads were (traditionally) opportunities for the learners to practise putting the grammatical components together in substitution drills and exchanges. Sure, that’s saying out loud what the lesson has been designed to ‘teach’, but it’s not speaking. By ‘speaking’ I’m referring to a spontaneous, need-driven utterance that invites an interaction.” It is a really good point. A teacher cannot use this app to evaluate the Competency 1 which is the ability to talk orally in English because the students won’t have to opportunity to use the vocabulary or the grammar rules that they learned previously, but they will be able to improve one very important feature of speaking which is the pronunciation. The App is not better than working in teams or discussing about a specific topic because it doesn’t involve real people. Fictional conversation will never replace real-life conversation between friends, but does your friend can tell you exactly if your sentences are well pronounced?Not really in the majority of cases. Tim Gilfford also raises a very good point in saying that “it’s missing out on the fundamentals when it comes to speaking practice, however; the spontaneity and support that are critical in helping a learner to recognise and respond to shortfalls in their productive abilities.”

Finally, as you see, the use of technologies such as SpeakingPal can really be enriching for your students because they will be able to improve specific skills in English. As long as the teacher knows how the app or the technology works, there is no problem to bring it in our schools.

For complete overview of the app, there is the link !

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Is Facebook an educational tool ?

Facebook is a wonderful tool for companies to make easy marketing, for celebrities to stay in touch with their fans or for normal people to meet new friends, but can it be an educational tool for teachers? There are many pros and cons of using Facebook in school, but I think overall it is a good tool for teachers, but it must be done in partnership with parents.

If you create a private group on Facebook only for the purpose of having discussions about various topics, Facebook can be enriching. First, as a teacher, you have to make sure that the teenagers in your class become better students, but also better citizens. Almost all the teenagers nowadays are on Facebook, but few of those watch the news. So, if you post articles about the news of the day on your Facebook group, it will improve their general knowledge. Maybe it will awaken a passion for politics for some of your students, who knows? Do you really think that people would have been known that Obama was re-elected that fast without Twitter or Facebook? Hell no!  People, especially the teenagers, don’t watch the news on TV or read the newspaper anymore, they now go on Facebook or Twitter. By posting political or cultural news, you make sure that they get aware of important things, not only the new date of Justin Bieber or the new single of One Direction.

Secondly, Facebook can be used as a way the students can improve their writing skills. If you begin a debate on Facebook, they will write about their point of view and that is exactly what you want as a teacher. They will have to communicate in a written format that may not be perfect writing, but at least they write something and their writing skills will improve. Andrew Simmons, a journalist for The Atlantic and an English teacher, even says that social networks transformed his students writing for the better. He says that “for younger high school boys particularly, social networking has actually improved writing – not the product or the process, but the sensitivity and inward focus required to even begin to produce a draft that will eventually be worth editing.”(1)

Thirdly, it can improve the social interpersonal skills of the students. For example, the shyest students of your class could begin to open themselves to the other students of your class by interacting with them on the private group of your class because it is easier to write something online than in real life. It is not like a real conversation face to face, but at least they interact and that could be the first step that will lead to real life interactions with their classmates who they would never have talked without the social networks. Like a 2006 study of University of Sydney, Australia, states, “Internet may be used as a forum for expanding social networks and consequently enhancing the change of meaningful relationships, self-confidence, social abilities and social support,” (2)

Finally, nothing is perfect about Facebook. Who never heard about bullying on the social networks? Nobody. Stories such as the one of Amy Louise Paul in Peterborough happen every day.  She said that “when I was 13 I had a disagreement with one of my friends at school and I thought it was all sorted. Then one of my other friends said she’s made a Facebook group about you for all the people who wish I was dead already.” (3) She said that she also considered killing herself.  I really think that it is a sad story and that it should make people think about the use of social networks. Those stories show that teenagers still don’t know how to use social networks properly. If the teachers would use Facebook in their classroom, they could also educate their students about what is permitted on Internet and what is not. Maybe if the people who intimidated Amy Louise would have been educated about the possible consequences of various actions on the social networks, they would have thought twice before doing that kind of thing. Furthermore, as a teacher, you have to explain to the parents the purpose of using Facebook for the class and to tell them to watch the actions of their kids online, because every kid needs to be supervised when using social networks.

A lot of people feel that Facebook is only good for attracting problems, but when used correctly and for pedagogical uses, Facebook can have multiple positive consequences on your students. Almost every teenager is on Facebook now, so if you want to do something that they will pay attention to, you have to go through the process of creating things on those social networks because otherwise they won’t really care.

(1)http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2013/11/facebook-has-transformed-my-students-writing-for-the-better/281563/

(2)http://nvate.com/5905/interpersonal-skills/

(3)http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2511836/Facebook-bullies-want-kill-Teenage-victim-shares-story.html

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