The power of the Hastag

What is Twitter? Twitter is quite the hype these days. You hear more and more talk about it! However, it was quite the unknown phenomenon to me. Considering that more and more applications are being adapted and used in the classroom, I thought why not go figure out how to use it and if it had any potential for the classroom Using sites such as this one  and my friend’s twitter account, I went off on a mission to demystify what all this hype was about. to tweet After investigation, I discovered that Twitter is an online social networking AND microblogging service. It allows it’s users to read or make posts of 140 characters. Therefore, this allows for short, clear cut messages. This messages are called “tweets”. (However, to be able to post messages you have to be registered. If not, you can still read all the different posts….you just cannot post any yourself!) You can also “follow” someone. This means that their “tweets” (posts on twitter) will appear on your feed; this way you will not miss any of their posts. Twitter also allows you to “retweet”. This basically means that you can share what someone else posted. However, both tweets and retweets are tracked to see which ones are the most popular.

Another important aspect of Twitter is the hashtaga  “#” sign. Using the hashtag, users can group posts together by topic or type. For example, in the context of a classroom, using #ESLMissNancy could group together everything that the fictive Miss Nancy posted on Twitter for her students. Her students could then have access to all this information in one place due to this hashtag. Just for this element, I can see the invaluable tool Twitter could become in the context of a creative writing or and ESL classroom.

K-12 teachers have taken advantage of Twitter’s format to keep their classes engaged and up-to-date on the latest technologies. The following projects provide you and your students with 50 ways to Twitter in the classroom to create important and lasting lessons.” – Samantha Miller

How to use Twitter in the Classroom?

First of all, the use Twitter in the Classroom, you should set up a new Twitter account for your class! You should “protect” your updates to keep is private and safe. Then, you can invite parents to “follow” you. This way parents can know and see what their child is doing in class. They can also access all this information from their home, which makes it all easier.

  • Tweet about upcoming due dates or assignments. Tweets are the perfect way to remind students of what they have to do. It is short, quick and very accessible!
  • Have a running news feed for the class. This way all the classroom information is located in one place that has easy access. It is a good way to help structure those students who are always lost and loosing their worksheets, papers, guidelines, etc… This can also be very useful for the students who were absent on a certain day!
  • Have your own classroom hashtag. Once again, all the information will be regrouped in one spot. Nonetheless, now students will also be able to share information, documents, or findings of the internet with the rest of the classroom. This will help build the feeling of a community within the classroom!
  • Facilitate research. Typing  keywords into the Twitter’s search engine can be a good way to find all kind of different sources (from microblog entries  to links and videos that were posted under this topic).

Twitter in the Classroom?

Chart

This nice image comes from TeachBytes (2013).  It makes a link with the Bloom’s Taxonomy Chart we learned about in Introduction to Linguistics (at Laval University) and Twitter. Go take a look! It clearly explains how Twitter can be used in the classroom to maximise your students’ learning

How I would use Twitter Personally, through my excursion in the world of Twitter, I see its invaluable asset to teaching literature or creative writing in class. It is an excellent way to encourage and enstore collaborative writing within a classroom. Here are a few ideas of how to creatively integrate Twitter in the classroom!

  • Write summaries. The short limit of characters allows students work on their abilities to clearly summarize in a few words. It helps them become more concise in their writing.
  • Produce a Tweet dialogue between two conflicting/opposing characters (e.g. Hitler and Anne Frank). I also found this neat site that is definitely worth checking out for inspiration! It make Tweets in the way of some past Historical figures. It is a good way to learn about History, and about style and identity in writing.
  • Use Twitter to write a Short Story.
  • Write a collaborative story. Have one student start the story with a tweet. Then, each student can add on the story by writing a tweet of their own. You can link up all these different posts with a hashtag!

Here is a Bonus tool for teachers!  It is a hashtag feed focused for teachers and tips for the classroom! You should definitely check it out.

Have fun discovering Twitter!

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PowerPoint presentations 2.0: Prezi

If you look up “Power Point presentation” in the dictionary, I am pretty certain the synonyms you would find would resemble this:

Power Point presentation: Boring, long, never ending, ugly and  a drag.

boring

However, no one can argue that these presentations aren’t  a visual tool with ENORMOUS POTENTIAL. As presenters, we just never seem to be able to unleash its full potential of awesomeness! We tend to forget that the presentation can be interesting, bold, creative AND interactive!

But how can a power point presentation become such a thing?If I could read your mind, I bet this is what I would be hearing at the moment).

In one of classes, a student showed up for her oral presentation with something different. It was something familiar yet it had a creative twist. It was informative yet very CREATIVE. It was pretty. It was captivating. BUT, most of all….it was interactive! I just had to figure out what this incredible tool was. Here is what I discovered…

Well search no further, the tool you have been waiting for is : Prezi !

 

What is Prezi?

Prezi is a presentation software  that stands out from the others by the possibility it gives you to tell a story on a virtual canvas. This means that your presentation is not fixed to the traditional solid slides we are used to! Your presentation can now do many more things than just switch slides at the click of a button. You can know create an interactive map. The presenter can zoom in and out of their presentation as they please. Your presentation is now in 3D. This just brings it to a whole new level. There are just so many reasons why you should use Prezi in your classroom!

This description can seem confusing or mind boggling at first. That is why you must see a Prezi presentation to fully understand what it is. The neat thing about Prezi is they have a sharing space. You can have access to presentations made by people from all around the world. This can inspire you or simply be the presentation you were looking for!  For you to understand the magic of Prezi, check this presentation out:

 

Reasons why I will use Prezi in my future ESL classroom

  • Collaboration: Using prezi promotes collaboration. You can have multiple users working on the same presentation at the same time. This way, it facilitates group work. Integrating Prezi in the classroom can help the teacher focus on cooperative learning structures. It can also make it easier for students to complete a task. They can do their assignment from their homes or from wherever they wish to complete their tasks.
  • Build communication skills: Prezi is used during oral presentations. In the context of an ESL classroom, this can be used during an oral communication exercise. It is a good tool for students to practice their communication skills. Being armed with a great presentation can give them the courage and motivation they need to do their presentation! When you are well prepared you tend to stress less for something. Considering that stress being a factor that discourages students from participating actively in the classroom, equipping students with a tool that puts them at ease for their presentation can only help them to gain courage and confidence in their own personal abilities! It is a win-win situation! (Creating their presentation also makes them work on their writing skills!)
  • Professional skill: Nowadays, more and more jobs are requiring some sort of presentation. Thus, showing students how to create a good presentation can only help them for the future. Working on this skill will prepare them for professional jobs or opportunities they eventually will have to perform. It can help them distinguish themselves from the competition.  Also, when a class activity can be applied to real life situations, students tend to be more motivated to accomplish them. This can also be a factor to increase the class motivation/active participation!

 

  • Develops creativity: Prezi is a great tool to encourage students to develop their creative side.

 

Another good aspect of Prezi is the present online community. There is a forum where people exchange their ideas. There is also a youtube channel where Prezi presents different aspects or applications offered to you with their software. It is an excellent  way to get you started or to find innovative ideas for your own presentations!

So now that you have the information, go check it out! It is definitely worth it!

 

 

Smart Pen

 

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“The pen is mightier than the sword…”

The person who first coined this quote must definitely have known about the Smart pen‘s existence! Apart from being the modern-day-classroom-magic-wand-spectacular (oh yes, this tool is just so amazing a new word had to be created smartpenfor it!),  what is the Smart Pen exactly?

What is the Smart Pen?

The Smart Pen is a tool shaped like a pen. It had an ink cartridge, so you can write with it like you would with any conventional pen. However, it does way more than that. It comes with its own notebook. This notebook is made with special paper. Whenever you write on this paper, the pen will also record everything that is being said as you are writing. All you need to do is click where it is written “record” at the bottom of the pages! Later, you can tap on the section of writing you are interested in your notebook and as you tap on the notebook you will hear the recording of what was said previously at the same exact moment when that note was taken. To accomplish this incredible feat, the pen is equipped with a camera where the tip is. This allows its sensors to see where on the paper you are tapping on. The pen also comes equipped with a built-in microphone. It gets even better! You can actually hook up your pen to your computer through a USB portal. This allows you to upload everything you have recorded. You can then listen to them over and over or send/share these recordings with other people! The possibilities are truly limitless!

As a future teacher, I was truly impressed by the unlimited possibilities of this tool.  The Smart Pen is worthy of mention considering how great its potential is to bring the classroom to a whole new level! Here is a video that explains quite clearly how it functions.

The Smart Pen is a tool that has as much potential for the students than for the teacher. Once you integrate its use in your classroom, you will not be able to go back! Think about it for a second, this pen opens up the world to a huge number of possibilities.

How would I use the Smart Pen in the classroom?

  • Record oral presentations: This way students can listen to their presentation. This allows them to hear what and how they said it. You can use this recording to ask them to create an auto-evaluation. The students could also fill-in a correction grid with all the mistakes they hear themselves make. By correcting themselves, they will be less inclined to make these mistakes again.
  • Justify your evaluation: As you are taking notes on the speaker, the Smart Pen will automatically match the notes you are taking with what the speaker was saying at that exact moment. Therefore, if a student does not agree with what you have pointed out, you can justify your point with the exact audio moment in question. This  helps to develop a sentiment of trust between the teacher and the students. When you can justify why you gave them such a grade, students feel that your evaluations are honest and just. They will not have the feeling that they were graded depending on the relationship you have with them, but rather on the quality of what they produced!
  • The power of sharing: Using the Smart Pen in the classroom allows you to share everything that was recorded with your students. You can send them an e-mail with today’s class content. This way, it will help them study for their exam tomorrow. You can send the recording of the today’s class to a student who was absent. This allows the absent student to “retake the class” without compromising your lunch hour! (We all know teachers do not have so much free time to prepare their various activities during the day.

Since a picture is worth a 1000 words, here are a couple of concrete examples of what you can do with this Smart Pen.

As you can see, its possibilities are limitless.

Livescribe also offers various applications and additions for their Smart Pen. Here  is a list of additions with an educational purpose. If the Smart Pen interests you, they are  definitely worth looking at.

Here are ideas for the use of the Smart Pen especially in ESL classes.

If you want more information about this product and its accessories, click here.

iPads in the classroom: To use or not to use?

ipadClassroom

In this world of ever growing technology, it is even more important for teachers to adapt their classrooms to it. Yes, iPads are known to be used for leisure. They could be a source of distraction. However, if you know how to use them, it is possible to use them in an awesome EFFICIENT way in the classroom! (The more you know your tool, the more you know how to prevent these distractions!)

iPads can be very useful in the classroom. You just need to discover how you can use it, what aspect of it would be useful for you! Here are some examples:

  • Visual support: Using the iPad opens up the window for a ton of visual support. Whether it be a document you found or made on the web, videos, pictures, etc… It is a simplified version of a projector. Also,each student can have access to the image from their own seat. Therefore, everyone can see clearly.
  • Classroom management: Using an iPad, you can hook it up to your board. This way, you can circulate in the classroom as you write. As a teacher, you are no longer chained to that board. It is easier to manage a classroom if your back if not faced to them. There also exists a wide range of applications to help you accomplish a good management of your classroom.
  • Easy correction
  • Facilitates feedback: Through internet, you can exchange e-mails with your students and their parents. You can send them personal messages to give them feedback, or can simply write directly on the assignment that was handed in.
  • Easy access: With the iPads you can easily store your files, your student files and all the other documents you think could come in handy. It is then easier to find what you are looking for through your search engine than through a messy desk.
  • Allows creativity: You have endless possibilities of what you can do with the iPads. It is an invaluable tool for teachers to create their class material. With all the different applications available online, you can easily add a magic touch to any lesson plan!  
  • Endless supply of tools and resources. It’s true! Go search the internet. The possibilities are limitless. A lot of them are free. Why not make good usage of them!

For example, there is this neat application called iPrompt. This purpose of this app is to help the learner  acquire fluency when reading or giving an oral presentation. This app can be very useful in the classroom to help your students read more fluently. It can also be used to improve their speech making skills. How it works? Basically, you can copy the text into iPrompt and then change the speed at which the writing will appear. This way, you can adjust the speed to the student’s level. Here is a tutorial for further information.

There are other apps to help you get free E-books for education and learning. All teachers know the importance of taking all the resources that are offered to you. Not every school had a big budget for new books every year. Therefore, why not take advantage of these free E-books! Here are sites that you should check out on this matter: Project Gutenberg and Baen Ebooks.

To those who are still sceptic, I had the chance to observe the use of iPads within an elementary school classroom. The success was immediate. Students were interested, invested and concentrated on their task. Through conversation with my associate teacher, it was revealed that: “She had never seen them be as concentrated as when they work on their iPad”. Let’s face it, we are dealing with a new generation of students. They are not only used to having technology, they were raised using it. Therefore, teachers can benefit greatly from implementing technology within the classroom. It is an excellent way to increase the participation level of the students in your classroom.

You can always check this site out for even more interesting information and ideas!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wikis: a cool tool to add to your classrooms!

What is a Wiki?

I learned about Wikis for the first time when I attended this year’s SPEAQ Campus. The presenter Annie Krespil introduced this concept in one of her conferences. Basically, a Wiki is a Content Management System. The most popular one being Wikipedia. It is a collaborative website where anyone can add or modify an article. However, apart from this one site (Wikipedia) that all students seem to use as a reference in their papers, Wikis are a remarkable tool to implement in the classroom. Teachers would benefit greatly from getting to know this tool.

 

wikiHere is some information to get you started!

Wiki 101

A wiki is a simple web page. Its advantage relies in the fact that it can be edited by many users. Therefore, this allows for a constant interaction between the teacher and the students. They can be used as sources to obtain information and knowledge. Wikis can also be used to create discussions amongst its users and participants. Since it is a collaborative platform, participants learn from each other.

Why use a wiki in the classroom?

There are many different ways as to how  a wiki could benefit a classroom.

Creates a sense of community: There are no direct leaders in a wiki. Everyone is allowed to share, edit and create within a wiki. This creates a sense of partnership and a desire for cooperation among the students in the classroom. Sure, the teacher makes sure that everything runs smoothly. However, the operation of the wiki does not solely depend on the teacher. This also helps to build up the autonomy of the students!

Easy comments: Peers can comment other peers. Teachers can easily comment their students’s work. Teachers may also privately comment certain pieces of work (making their comment only accessible by the concerned student). Parents may also have easy access to the teacher’s comment, making them thus more aware of how their child is doing in the classroom.

Easy access: All the work can be placed online. No more loosing of the copies. No more forgetting the homework. Everything is accessible in one place. This makes it easier for teachers to correct. It also makes it easier for students to search for their homework. Students no longer have to search among their numerous books for that one piece of paper they are looking for. They can simply go online where all their documents are together.

 

Wikis also have a positive influence upon:

Student Participation and interaction: The students of today are more inclined to participate when technology is involved. ICTs are part of their interests. Students who are interested are more willing to participate in the classroom!

-Group Projects: It makes it easier for students to communicate together. All their information can be found on one place.

 

How to set up a Wiki? 

As you can see by this video, Wikis are quite simple to set up. The hardest part is choosing with type of server you want to use!  If you have any more questions on this topic, there are many articles and/or videos up on Youtube explaining all the different things you can do with a Wiki.

Furthermore, here is a step by step procedure to start your own wiki.  It can be used as a good checklist when you are setting up your own Wiki!

If you are still unsure as to whether you would see Wikis being a part of your classroom or not, go check these out. They are good  examples to really understand the beauty of a wiki.

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