Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Learning English with Pictures and Stories -- Bubblr

Bubblr is an interesting and free website you can create and share your original comic strips, and possibly realize your childhood dream of being a comic strips writer!

  •   How does it work?



There is a search engine for the users to search for the potential images they like. It can be done either by searching the key words or the owner of the images.

                                                                                    The search engine


 Right away, the search results will pop up in the upper part of the web page. The image storage is rather large, thus very possibly you can get thousands of optional images.
                                                      An example of research results
Then, you can choose any pictures you like, drag and drop it into the 'comic strips' template. And you can add a couple of pictures more as you like. 
                                                    An example of choosing images

Now it's time for you to write the story you want to share! You can choose a shape of bubble and put it wherever you like on the pictures, followed by typing a few words describing it. Once you finish editing, you can publish the work, and share it with anyone you like by sending their the published link via email, or clicking the SHARE button to shere it on the Facebook, Blogger, and so forth.

An example of adding words to the pictures

  • The reasons for using Bubblr
1) Task design
The teachers can use Bubblr to design a speaking task easily within one minute, such as story-telling.

2) It can involve the peer collaboration and competition
The students can be arranged into pairs or small groups to create their own story. They should discuss and decide the story topic, negotiate, compromise, insist, agree or disagree with each other, which can improve their cooperative spirit and interpersonal skills as well as the speaking ability.

From the whole class perspective, the activity could be developed into a little competition. The students can vote for their favorite stories created by their peer students.

3) Motivation
It is undoutedly much more appealing  to students to have colorful images in their class.

Also, as long as the students are producing something interesting and creative by themselves, they will feel the stuff they are engaged with is meaningful rather than dull and meaningless.

Besides, it also adds to the students' learning motivation that they can share, appreciate and evaluate their piece of work online with their friends, teachers and peer students.


                    Just click the SHARE button, you will find several ways to share your fantastic piece of work with others
  • Limitations?
 The way of using the Bubblr is quite limited: either the teachers produce the comic strips and arrange the students to tell the stories, or the students create their own ones.

Additionally, if the students want to talk about their own pictures, it is not so convenient, since the images in this website is sponsored by the photo sharing website – Flickr. (http://www.flickr.com/)

There is also a danger of the content of the images. The teachers should be careful about the drug, pornographic, violence elements when they are dealing with teenagers or young learners.

  • Suggestions for teachers 
The teachers are advised to use the Bubblr in speaking class. 

They can produce the comic strips in advance and arrange the students to do the story-telling activities, or it is also interesting to arrange a story-prediction activity.  

OR the teachers can devide the students into pairs or small groups (if the class size is bigger) and let them to create their own stories.

Jing -- An effective electronic teaching assistant

Let Jing help you with your work!

Try Jing by downloading free version (http://www.techsmith.com/download/jing/default.asp)

What is Jing ?
Jing is a smart screenshot and screencast software produced by TechSmith. It can
  • capture the image of your computer screen
  • video what you do on your computer screen and record your voice at the same time
  • the captured video can be edited by other softwares produced by TechSmith
The reasons for choosing Jing for ELT
  • Users-friendly: it is very important for teachers!!
          Jing has two versions: one is pro version, anther is free version. If you are not too ambitious, the free version is already powerful enough.
        
          Jing is very easy to use: after you download it, there will be a yellow icon in your screen. By a simple click on the 'Capture' button, select the area you want to capture, then you can start making your own  'masterpiece'. More interestingly, when you finished your video, click the share button, your piece of work will immediately uploaded to you profolio in Screencast, and automatically the link for this video is copied and ready for paste. 

           Jing offers various tutorial vedios for the beginners.  And they are also free for download. Here is an example downloaded from this web address:  http://www.techsmith.com/tutorial-jing-record-video.html



video

  • Teachers can personalise their teaching materials
By screencasting, the teacher can create many different kinds of teaching materials (such as vocabulary instruction, giving feedback, online learning resources recommendation, listening materials, etc.) and send the video links to the students.
  • Time and energy efficient for teachers
Make a vedio, you can use it for as many times as you want!

Thinking about giving individual feedback to many students, it takes ages typing, editing or hand-writing the feedback. However, with Jing screencast, you can simply talk about it. It saves lots of time and energy.


Limitations?
  • The recording time limit for the free version of Jing is only 5 min.
  • For the teachers who have already has their own fixed teaching preference, it may difficult to promote them to use a completely different teaching tools.
  • The free version Jing can only record the speakers' voice, the image of the speakers is missed. It may difficult for some students, especially the students of lower language proficiency, to understand the teachers' instruction without seeing their face and mouth.
  • It may be weird for some teachers to do the monologue to the computer in stead of standing in front of students and having interactive commuication with them.
Suggestions for Teachers
  • Teachers are suggested to use Jing to give feedback to students' written work.                           (More information cencerning giving feedback by Jing, visit Russell Stannard's website: http://www.teachertrainingvideos.com/
  • Teachers can also personalise their own teaching materials, making the teaching materials specially targeted to their students.
  • Teachers can ask the students to do the reading-aloud practice with Jing. In this way, the students can send their reading practice to teathers, so that the teachers can comment and correct them. Meanwhile, the students can keep the reading recordings by themselves, so that after a period of speaking, pronunciation and reading practice, they can monitor their process of progress!
  • The teachers' Jing vedios can also serve as the authentic listening materials for the students.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Love Chocolate Love Learning Vocabulary !




Learning Chocolate is a free vocabulary learning platform which makes learning vocabulary as enjoyable as eating a bar of chocolate! 


  • How does it work?
Firstly, when you open the web page of Learning Chocolate, the vocabulary learning journey can be started by choosing the language you prefer to use when learning the target language.

 Learning Chocolate categorises the vocabulay into different groups according to the word meaning. You can choose any of them by a simple click, and then there will appear the list of new words with picture demonstration and the pronunciation aids. They are just working as online word cards.
 
    


In addition, the website provides the learners with various learning activites for practice and review, such as match up (matching up the pronunciation and the spelling; matching up the spelling and the picture; matching up the pronunciation and the picture), fill in (spelling activities with picture cues), and dictation.



  • The reasons for choosing Learning Chocolate
1)  Choosing language:
     The learners are provided the opportunities to choose their instrumental language (either their mother tongue or the target language itself) when learning the vocabulary. It is obviously rather practical and effective for the beginners to use the language they have acquired to learn a new language. On the other hand, for the learners who have already get some knowledge of the target language, it is very beneficial to expose them to the target language and get the input as much as possible.

2)  Learning the vocabulary in groups
     From the cognitive perspective, categorising the vocabulary in certain groups can improve the efficiency of the memorisation and acquisition. To be specific, the words within a group are associated with each other in terms of the lexical  meaning as well as the using context, thus the words put together are sensible enough to the learners and easier to memorise.

     Also, by grouping the vocabuary, Learning Chocolate is showing a possible example of 'word cards' for the learners themselves to make their own word cards or word notebooks  .

3)  Easy access to the word pronunciation
     The learners can constanctly check the pronunciation of the word, if they like, by simply clicking the speaker button. It is efficient and good for the accuracy of learning.

4)  Visual aids
     Generally, the whole website of Learning Chocolate is colorful and attractive. It boosts the learners' motivation of using this website and learning the vocabulary with it, especially for those young learners.

      More importantly, the vocabulary is demonstrated with nice pictures, which is undoubtedly one of the most effective ways to explain the meaning of a word.




5) Various follow-up activities for practice and revision
    It is far from enough of just showing and illustrating the vocabulary to learners to achieve the final acquisition. Learning Chocolate's learning activities involve the learners to practise the new words frequently with aspects of spelling, pronunciation and word meaning. By this means, the learners' understanding and memorisation of the words are reinforced.

    In terms of learning autonomy, the follow-up activities can serve as the self-test materials for the learners, which is also a good way to monitor their own learning of new words.

  • Limitations ?
    Despite that the website is free for use, it has some advertisement on the pages, which could be confusing and distractive sometimes.

      The rang of the listed vocabulary is limited. To be clear, the vocabuary that suitable for visual demanstration tend to me concrete things in the world rather than those conveying abstract meanings, since they hardly have physical referents in real world.
  • Suggestions for Teachers
      The teachers are advised to use Learning Chocolate  as a suplement when teaching vocabulary.

      In the class, the teacher can use it as a warming-up activity to review the vocabulary that has been covered in the previous class. Also, it is brilliant to use it to introduce the new vocabulary.

      In addition, the teacher can recommend the students to use this website as voluntary homework in case some students want to learn and practise more after the class.

Friday, 10 February 2012

An Amusing Language Learning Tool -- Lyrics Learning

Pop music is one of the most commonly used media to reveal all aspects of people's life, such as emotion, routine life, history, people's thought. Thus it integrates into the culture of a given culture.

That could be a big part of the reason for many people recommending learning language through songs, apart from the amusement of music.

Learners may feel bothered to stop and replay the piece of songs while listening to and learning the lyrics. Here we get an incredible tool for lyrics learning -- Lyrics Training.




Using this website, the learners can search for any song they are interested in, or select a random song. Just a quick clicks, they can play the lyrics training game with the music video played in the middle of the screen -- filling the blanks within the lyrics. What makes it cater for all the level of the language learners is that there are three proficiency levels for the learners to choose, namely the beginner, intermediate, and expert. They are categorised  by the proportion of the missing words.



Besides, there will be presented the user-friendly tips of the game tutorial if you click the Help button.

By using this web tool of language learning, the learners' interest will be boost especially for teenages, since the pop music is a part of their life. They can combine the pastime and language learning together, thus turning language learning an enjoyable thing.

However, the application of this website can be hard to be implemented in a real class, especially hard for large size class, since it involves the easy access to the computer and internet, and it is also very practical in terms of time limitation. Therefore, it is recommened to be a complementary learning resouce after the class.

Another danger of using this website is that the lyrics and the vedio of some songs includes the elements of sex, drugs, violence, etc., which can cause problems for young learners. It can be a possible way to avoid this danger that the teacher select the appropriate songs and send the links to them.

Here is the link for a song called What Makes You Beautiful from an UK pop group, One direction.
Click here to try it now!

Thursday, 9 February 2012

A Wonderful Online Discussion Platform -- TodaysMeet

TodaysMeet is a wonderful online communication tool. A public meeting room can be created easily at any time, making online group discussion effortlessly accessible.



Teachers can use TodaysMeet to
  •       organise the students to brainstorm on certain topics as a warming-up activity in the class
  •       collect the students' feedbacks of the previous classes, and prepare for the following classes
  •       open a Q-A session outside the classroom
  •      disscuss the outline, syllubus, teaching aids, etc. with other colleagues within the school or far away
Students can  use TodaysMeet to
  •       discuss and negotiate with their partners converning their cooperative work
  •       ask and answer the Qs their fellow students post
  •       comment on the class immediately after the class

The reasons for teachers to choose TodaysMeet:
  •      More room for the Ss: when applying the tool to the second language teaching and learning, the teacher's role is pulling back. In other words, students are given more room to express their ideas, thus rather student-centred.
  •      Motivation: many students of shy personality or lower target language proficiency level tend to be reluctant to speak in the public, especially facing an authoritative role as a teacher. Without the concrete appearance of the teacher, the students can be motivated and more actively involved in the group work and the discussion.
  •      Effectiveness: the creating of the meeting room is not limited to the time and place. Besides, it aslo cost-effective.
  •      Recorder of the discussion: with an easy click on the "transcript" button in lower right side of the disscussion box, the the lines of every participants can be automatically recorded for future use. 


Limitation:
          This online communication tool does not allow the users to share any images, audio or visual files. It may bring about difficulty for the illustration of some discussion, the sharing of the resouce between the Ts and Ss, and so forth.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Wordle -- More than a beautiful word cloud

Wordle -- Beautiful word clouds, and MORE than beautiful word cloud!
It has many educational potential!


What is a Wordle ?

Wordle is a Web 2.0 tool to make word clouds. Generally, the users put in the text, and the more frequently a word is used, the bigger it becomes in the word clould.

The following is a word cloud I did when I put in the fairy tale -- Snow White.



You may want to start doing your own wordle after you watch a brief tutorial. :)



The reasons for choosing Wordle for ELT
Colorful and interesting, thus motivating for students, expecially the young learners.
Limitations?

  • It requires for Java plugin for a computer.
  • When embeded to the blogger, the word cloud image is too small to be clear enough. Therefore, if you want a bigger image of the word cloud, you should do a screencast.

Wordle: snow white
An example of an embeded version: very small and not clear enough
Suggestions for teachers:

  •  Use it as a pre-reading/ listening activity, ask the students to see the word cloud and predict the content of the reading/listening materials.


  • In writing class:
1) Using Wordle to check out the most friequently used words and expressions in certain types/genres of articles, so that the students can learn some fixed word choice in a specific type of writing.

2) Put the students’ writing task into wordle, and check out the most frequent adjective, content verbs, adverbs, linking words, ect., so that the students can think about/ look into the dictionary for other words and expressions to replace them, thus making the choice of expression more diversified.