Friday, May 17, 2013

iStuff in Class

Last post, I shared how the iPad and iPhone have helped a roving teacher (me!) stay somewhat organized. I didn't have a lot to recommend in the way of nifty discoveries from the app store ... it has been helpful just to get in the habit of using basic utilities and to take advantage of the cloud for access and collaboration.

When it comes to using "iStuff" for teaching, I have again found myself focusing on practical support. I'm happy if learners who have tablets or smart phones want to use English drilling and game apps on their own time and invite them to share their recommendations with each other. (Any independent activity involving using or playing with English is fine with me!) Meanwhile, here's what I've been doing with these tools myself.

credit: Joan M. Mas

Google Voice (iPhone, PC): Teachers are faced with a dilemma. We want to be available to our learners but we don't necessarily want to make our personal contact information public. I have a business number, but it's not associated with any physical phone and its features are really more convenient for people working together in an office setting. My boss and fellow teachers call my personal number directly and I would like to offer similar direct access to my learners. Google Voice not only allows that, it makes all voice mail available on the cloud and it offers some powerful organizational features.

When you sign up (in the US -- I don't know about elsewhere), you can request a phone number. Calls to this number will be routed to a phone or phones of your choice. Google allows you to screen incoming calls and either pick up or send to voice mail. If there is an unwanted caller dialing your number, you can block them. With the app or from a browser, you can return calls from the Google Voice number so that your mobile number remains private. You can create custom messages for groups of people (a different message for each class, a message for all learners but not other callers, a message for fellow teachers but not learners, etc.). All calls, texts and other calling information are saved to an online inbox similar to a Google email inbox. Google also attempts to transcribe voice mails to text and saves the text along with the audio. Naturally, this is of little use with heavily-accented, grammar-challenged learners! But the audio is still a cool record of a learner's speech. I imagine asking learners to call in their homework sometimes. I can see analyzing a message in class (with permission) or in a one-one session.  And think about comparing calls made early in the learning cycle with similar calls made a few months later!

(By the way, transcription may be useless as a record of what the learner actually said, but it can be a great source of found poetry! Here is my current favorite -- from a Laotian learner's message: "He bled life, and sunny pieces today".)

Remind101 (iPhone): This is the same functionality as Twitter's "Fast Follow" (is it a wrapper around Twitter?). You are guided to create a unique handle for each class. Learners can follow by sending a single text message command to the phone number you provide them or by sending a blank email to the address you give them. You can then send messages to all of your followers by using the form online or by using the app. (If it's a wrapper around Twitter, I guess you could tweet directly from the handle?) Learners can leave the group at any time by sending a command. It works with any phone that handles text (doesn't have to be a smart phone). Note that this is a one-way system. Except for their initial sign-on and their eventual exit, learners don't send messages. With my beginner group, I had to assist most of them with the setup. I had one learner who didn't want to participate, which is fine. As it stands, if I have to call in sick, I can send one message to almost everyone. That beats hunching -- coughing and wheezing -- over a telephone calling one number after another for an hour or two!

edmodo (iPad, iPhone, PC): All of the learners in my higher level group have access to either a PC or a smartphone, so I have created an edmodo space for them.   I try to post something each weekend (to encourage "noticing") and we post pictures from class outings and events. I periodically ask them to post their homework there, especially when one of the group is out for a few days.  I'll probably be using the quiz function more often as a part of our vocabulary project (as both receptive and productive retrieval activities). One thing that's keeping me from using it (and another tool, see below) extensively is that there doesn't seem to be a way to export the quizzes and homework for the learners' records.

In class:

The camera (iPad, iPhone): In the classroom, I use the camera a lot. I take pictures of the whiteboard and of learner work. I take pictures of interesting language outside the class and share. I have used the reverse camera as a mirror so students can check their mouth shapes when practicing pronunciation.

The clock (iPad, iPhone): I use the timer function to keep track when doing timed tests and activities. For a while, I was using it to remind student that our break was 10 minutes (not 20 or 25!). When I used it on the iPad, everyone could see it clearly and I would just resume class when it went off, regardless of who was in the room. (I don't use it anymore, people are good about the 10 minutes now!) If you want to set up a lot of different timers with names, try Timer+. You can use silly sounds (rooster crowing, boings, etc.) which adds some light-heartedness!

Illustration (iPad, PC): Now that I have a projector (insert standing ovation!!!), I fire it up at the beginning of every lesson. When we're discussing the meaning of a word, I use WordSift to find an illustrative picture. We use online dictionaries and dictionary apps to look at definitions and hear pronunciation (learners like to confirm their class-derived definitions and hear pronunciation other than mine!). I like Merriam-Webster's learner's dictionary a lot. We sometimes use a translation app called iSpeech. And, of course, we use the Internet as a resource in general. One small annoyance: the cable that connects iStuff to a projector costs close to $30 ... but it's worth it.

Assessment and data collection (iPhone, iPad): I record video or audio (and take pictures, noted above) to assess myself and the learners, and sometimes I record learner presentations. They love watching themselves afterwards! I like Audio Memos because it has a number of useful features (bookmarks, for example). There is one app that I don't use yet, but the idea has a lot of potential for teaching in non-school situations where there is no access to a copier: Three Ring. You can collect "artifacts" (photos, video, etc.) of a learner's writing and other activities and these become, effectively, a digital portfolio for the student. Imagine snapping a picture of a notebook, recording a presentation, taking a picture of a quiz, etc. and organizing it all in an electronic portfolio using keywords! And annotating it. (It could also be used as my own digital portfolio ... a nice place to keep all of my whiteboard photos, self-recordings and so on.) For practical reasons, I would need to be able to archive everything offline as well. When a learner leaves the program, I would like to archive their information to our agency's records and then remove it from the Internet (for protection of their privacy). It would be nice to give a copy to the departing learner (on a USB drive, perhaps). I hope the need for paper will eventually die, but right now, I would like to print out a learner's quizzes or whatever else to put into their folder.   I did send an email to the Three Ring team with these suggestions. Can't wait to see the full capability someday!

After class:

Day One (iPad): I use this app to keep reflections as we go through our vocabulary project's pilot stage. I set up a template, which I copy to each new entry and then I fill it out. The results can be printed to PDF and shared. You can also append photos.

In conclusion:

It will be interesting to check back in a year and see how my use of iStuff has evolved!  I have a feeling I will continue to favor functionality that facilitates rather than functionality that tries to teach.  Hmmm, I wonder why .... ?  (*Smile!*)

No comments:

Post a Comment