Archive for the ‘How to use…’ Category
Tags: call recording, education, pamela, pretty may, skype, teaching
Skype is a free web tool where you can make and receive free calls and video calls only with an internet connection. I’ve already shown a short presentation on Skype in my previous post about Prezi so what I’m just going to give some tips on how to use it in your classroom as well as outside 🙂
Sorry for writing so much but I did this while on the train and I didn’t have my microphone with me and it would’ve been kind of awkward recoding this post with 8 people sitting around you 😛
Inside the classroom:
- Let’s say you want to invite a guest to talk to the class but this person is in another country and can’t make it to your class (transport, expenses, time, etc. – for all these reasons and maybe others). What you could do is to organize a live video stream through Skype.
You could ask your students then to interview the person, take notes on his/her answers and write an article about him/her
- You could start a call with a person (important for your lesson) on Skype without video feature. Ask him/her to hold a short speech on a certain topic and ask you students to speculate on the persons characteristics and appearance just by listening to his/her voice – for using adjectives; speculating language; language for prediction. In the end show the person by activating the video feature and ask your students to compare their predictions with the true identity.
- I don’t know how many of you do this but I have some classes where I teach my students how to make phone calls, how to start a phone conversation, how to end it when calling for different reasons (personal or professional). In these lessons I like to use real examples. This means that I actually give them a phone or ask them if we can use theirs. Some might not want to pay extra costs for phone conversations on their phone in the English lesson and maybe you don’t want to do this either (mainly if you have a large class). Do you see where I’m heading with this? 🙂 Yes, Skype is an alternative – in case you have at least 2 laptops at hand. You can use one laptop in the classroom for the incoming call and place the other one outside the classroom for the outgoing call. In this way they can not only practice phone conversations (such as reporting a crime or calling for help and describing what happened) but also video conferencing. Of course, keep in mind that you cannot have more than 2 videos running at the same time on one laptop. You can have a phone conversation with more people at once but not with video on.
- Students record their conversations on Skype, send you the saved recording on email and you can give them feedback on it. I always strive to give a feedback as good as possible to my students and this might be sometimes difficult when in the classroom. I’m not saying it’s impossible….I’m just saying that processed information is easier to assess.
Outside the classroom:
I might want to practice the Speaking part for the IELTS, TOEFL or Cambridge (FCE, CAE, CPE) exams in the class and I see that my students still need practice. If I don’t have enough time in the class for further practice then I can tell them to practise their speaking skills at home. How do they do this?
o You can ask them to record themselves using their phone while talking about a topic. However, not everyone has a phone with a recorder on it.
o You can tell them to use a microphone and install a specific software on their computer to record what they’re saying. However, they have to buy a microphone in case they don’t have one and they have to install the proper software on their computer…something that not everyone is willing to do.
o IF they have a laptop with an incorporated microphone, they could use that. However, not every Windows OS supports a recorder although Windows 7 has one and is free for use in the Accessories section. You just have to open it and push the big red button to start recording.
o Using a proper recorder is of course a good way also but once again they need to buy one if they don’t have one yet. For most this might be a pain in the neck and might demotivate them to practice the speaking part.
And if you think about it, talking to oneself is not really what happens at exam…or in real life… 🙂 Practising speaking on your own might be good if you’re practising for a speech and still you don’t have an audience…something that you do have in reality.
So without further a do….In my opinion, the best way of practising speaking at home on a phone with a partner is using Skype.
Skype not only offers you free calls but also free live video chat feature thus making it able for anyone who has a laptop with a webcam and a microphone (built in or external) to have a real conversation while practising some speaking skills. Yes, you do have to have a microphone…luckily most of the laptops nowadays on the market offer you a built in webcam as well a microphone thus making the purchase of an external microphone unnecessary.
So how do we give feedback on a conversation that our students have had at home with another person? The answer is simple…we ask them to record the conversation and send it email it to us:)
How do we do this? On Skype of course 😛 Skype has many plug-ins which give us the possibility to record not only the voice but also the video calls.
You might not want to ask your students to record their video calls…I think asking them to record their voice calls is enough for you and for them. They might be shy enough to listen to their own voices and sending it to you could be something they might not be keen on.
Pamela is a plug-in that is easy to install, it’s free and it can record your calls on Skype. The downsides are that you can record only up to 15 min although there are rarely conversations that take that long. Also it doesn’t function always as well as it’s supposed to be….I think it’s just made this way so you buy it in the end. Consequently, I have to say that I was a bit disappointed lately by Pamela because it didn’t want to start although I could open it and set the setting but it didn’t record anything….I couldn’t even push the big red button…it was unavailable.
This led to frustration and curiosity in the same time. I searched for new plug-ins for Skype to record conversations and I found some.
PrettyMay is a free plug-in and much more useful than Pamela because it can also record video besides the voice call record option. It is easy to install and to use and it stores your recordings which you can then save and send to anyone you like.
- You can create a chain story using recordings made on Skype. You can start a conversation with one of your friends/colleagues or with higher level students by telling the beginning of a story, for example you could start talking about one of your best experiences you’ve had in life and stop at a certain point to ask your friend to continue spontaneously the story for another 2 minutes. Save the conversation and send it to another pair of students. Ask them to listen the beginning of the story and come up with the second part of it without ending it. Do this until all your students get to tell a part of the story.
For advanced users: you could then use a free web tool such as Audacity and put the pieces of the story together and save it as an mp3 or any other format. You can then give feedback on the structure of the story, language, creativity, fluency, coherency and so on 🙂 The new chain story 🙂 It’s fun and captivating. Students will be anxious to see what the others have thought about and will try to top whatever the other have written…this kind of competitive spirit is always a good incentive.
- Whenever you want to tell your students to make up dialogues in order to practise certain speaking skills and vocabulary…don’t! Ask them to have actual conversations. Tell them about Skype and its free features and how easy it is to use. Ask them create live conversations using the newly acquired vocabulary. Practise dialogues for: ordering food and drinks in a restaurant; reporting a crime or an accident; invitations and any other phone or live conversations you can think of.
Here is a short tutorial on how to install Skype and PrettyMay call recorder and on other tips on how to use them for educational purposes (from slideshare.net):
And here is a video to see what Skype is about:
So that you just know…Skype can be used also on your mobile phones. You can make phone to computer conversations also (and it doesn’t work only on Verizon!):
Tags: attractive, ppt, presentation, prezi, ted, visual
I’ve found Prezi while searching for an alternative for PPT (Power Point Presentations) and I have to say I am stunned and will probably never want to use another PPT again 🙂
Here is an example from TED where Prezi is used as a tool for a presentation:
I could write an entire description for its use, however, I prefer showing you instead how to use it. Therefore, I prepared a presentation on how to use Skype for teaching purposes and did this using Prezi.
I also added some tutorial videos for using Prezi….you should check them out in the prezi presentation.
Prezi for teachers
If your a teacher working for a public or private school and you have an email account for the school you’re working for then you should definitely use that when signing in to Prezi.
If you sign in to Prezi using your yahoo, gmail, hotmail or any other accounts, you will get only 100 MB storage space on your account. However, if you sign in using your school’s email address (for example email@example.com – this is the name of the private school I teach in) then you will get 500 MB storage space which is a lot more.
In case you don’t have such an email address and you want to sign in using your other email accounts, you can do so and not worry so much about the space you have until 100 MB. If you get to the limit you can always download the presentation you’ve created, delete the one you have on the net and start a new one. This way you can save your presentations and create new ones all the time.
On the other hand it’s always good to have your presentation online, in case you don’t have your laptop with you and you still want to use one of your presentations somewhere with an internet connection.
So, without further a do, here is my first presentation on Prezi (I’m still testing it and finding out new things but until now I had great fun using it and find it a very useful tool – my students were also very happy to see that there is a more interesting way of making presentations than PPTs):
Let me know what you think of this 🙂
Tags: create, movie, text to video, xtranormal
I’ve heard about xtranormal.com a few years ago and tried it out. I have to say that students enjoyed using it and watching some movies from the site. Mostly they enjoy using it because it’s easy to use and straightforward with the tools it gives you (animations, expressions, looks, sounds, etc.).
I enjoyed using it because it really gets the creativity of students working. It can bring them together while working on a project and it can teach them many important skills they definitely will need in their future jobs, such as teamwork or target-oriented interaction when working on a project.
Here are video tutorials on how to start using xtranormal.com and some tips on how to use it:
How to start
How to create
How to save
How to preview
Inside the classroom
- you could prepare a movie on the topic of your lesson and use it as a lead in.
- you could make a movie only by adding expressions or animations to it and let the students add the dialogues to the movie. They watch the movie created by you and discuss what the actors might say.
- if your class is equipped with at least one computer for a student, you can ask them to work together in groups or pairs and create a story, a dialogue focusing on different points, such as: small talk, turn taking, debates, agreeing and disagreeing, giving advice, etc.
- you can ask them to create dialogues for different books. If you give your students some books to read then ask them to retell the story of the book in the form of a movie with dialogues. Students will practise their summarizing skills in this activity.
- tell them to choose a famous historical conversation(you can look for some before the activity and give them some support by giving them some examples) and role play it with two actors in xtranormal. The conversation should give the public the feeling that it’s really similar to the original one (they could watch some on youtube before engaging into the activity)
Outside the classroom
- ask your students create a feedback movie on the lesson. They could give you feedback in the form of a conversation. They could try to predict what your reactions to their feedback would be and then give them feedback whether they got it right or not.
- you could ask them to create a movie on a certain topic you would like to discuss the next lesson. Let’s say you want to talk about ‘Generation gap’. Ask your students to use their creativity and create a movie based on the topic. Award them for the movie closest to the topic.
- ask them to work in groups and create a movie made up of at least 2 or 3 parts. You can extend this to a short TV Series with students giving them a title and subtitles to all of the episodes. They could create a TV Series based on their classmates and their weekly learning experience (they could create an episode every week or maybe twice a week). This really strengthens their abilities to interact and to work in teams making decisions together for the project. In the end, after finishing the TV Series, they could share their experience with the others on how they managed to work together and how difficult or easy it was working in teams on a long-term project.
Many teachers ask themselves why they should use twitter. Even some of my students asked me why they should use twitter if they already have a facebook, yahoo messenger account. Frankly, you don’t HAVE TO use it if you don’t want to. No one will oblige you to create an account on it.
However, there are some advantages of using twitter for both teachers and students, despite the whole skepticism about it.
For those who don’t know it yet, twitter is a micro-blogging site where you can post any time what you are doing and if you follow someone such as your friends, family members or colleagues you will also know what they’re doing.
Here is the official explanation by twitter:
Why is it called a micro-blog? Well, first of all, you are not allowed to write more than 140 characters in one tweet (entry). This can be very refreshing for many but also kind of annoying for some of us.
When I want to read about something on a blog then I prefer not having to read the entire post because I’m probably not interested in everything the person has to say about a topic (of course it depends on the topic) so I’m just going to skim for the most important pieces of information. On the other hand, when you are on twitter you don’t have to read thousands of words or skim through the entire text just to find something useful. You can read the entire entry because it’s that short 🙂
Therefore, it’s more motivating to read short pieces of information thus finding out about many things in shorter time than reading for hours about one certain topic.
Nevertheless, many are still skeptical about twitter because of its quick flow of information and its, sometimes, overwhelming tweets. However, this might occur only if you have hundreds or thousands of followers – which is not easy to accomplish. And even if, by any chance, you get bored of getting the tweets of someone you’re following, you can easily get rid of them by clicking ‘Unfollow’ and henceforth you won’t get any tweets from that person again – if you change your mind you can always follow that person again.
Despite this skepticism about this rush of information, I think that this is something positive. Nowadays, you have to try to stay up-to-date with everything new that’s going on in the world. Why? Because your students are doing the same thing and you might find yourself not knowing what they are talking about or what students are into these days thus lowering your chances of making your lessons interesting. And if you can’t motivate students nowadays they will get bored of your lessons or, even worse, of you or your lack of interest. But this is almost a different topic that I might talk about another time. Let’s get back to twitter:) The main idea here is that, the more information you get on twitter the better. Of course this depends on what kind of tweets your receiving and this depends on who you’re following. Now these are all your choices to make. Who to follow, what to read and what not to read. You can have two separate accounts: one for work and another for personal stuff. However, I personally think this is unnecessary…it’s just one too many passwords to remember but as I said it’s a personal choice.
Outside the classroom
Lately, I’ve been hearing teachers talk a lot about twitter and how to use it to their advantage in their professional lives. I’ve been hearing about what a great way twitter is if you want to make new professional acquaintances and find out about new activities, links, conferences and many more and this is true, however if people are looking for conversations on twitter then it’s the last place to go. Yes, IF you follow the right person on twitter then you can see who that person is following and follow maybe some of them and then look at some of the people that person has as his/her followers and follow some of them and so on and so forth. After a while you will start getting lots of tweets about different stuff relating from day-to-day activities to professional ones. Then you can start filtering out the ones which are important for you and use them in your field of expertise.
- you can stay in touch with some of your colleagues in a different country or continent and post new websites, software or activities that you have used or see what they are currently using. This is a fast and easy way of sharing experiences and different ways of approaching teaching.
- I also found on Digg.com some interesting ways of using Twitter. Here are some of them:
A fine use of Twitter which helps us learn a new word each day and replace the colorful adjectives we normally use at traffic snarls. Follow @artwiculate on Twitter and use the word they broadcast in one of your tweets. The more ‘likes’ or retweets each reply gets, pushes it up the popularity charts on Artwiculate. The prize: An enriched vocabulary which we can use to sound more intelligent than we actually are.
Solve user created puzzles via Twitter or create your own. The fun is in the off the cuff bizarre answers that get generated. The site could do with a boost as the responses seem to be flagging off. If you have a sense of humor, play this Twitter game which is short and funny.
Outwit.me has a lineup of seven games based on Twitter. You can join and play anytime once one game is over and another begins. For instance, in Tweet Hangman you have to guess a secret word or phrase by replying with letters. Tweet Quiz is about guessing all the multiple answers that may exist for the quiz asked. Each correct guess that matches the majority earns a point.
This Twitter game is the equivalent of the classic game of Bricks, except that the bricks come from Tweets. Stack up your Tweets as they fall down with the arrow keys. You can choose to play with your own Tweets, with other users, friends or followers, with your mentions, or with all Tweets posted with a Hash tag.
The idea to play chess with a remote opponent is nothing new. Chess Tweets just takes the idea onto Twitter. You don’t need to register separately. You can play against one or against the entire community by moving the set pieces and sending chess moves via your Twitter account. Depending on the responses, this game can be slow at times.
As you can see there are some ways to use these outside your classes with your students by motivating them to use twitter not only to say that they are washing the dishes or watching their favourtite TV series but also to use it as a useful tool.
Inside the classroom
Now, this is depends very much on whether your students have a mobile device (such as a smart phone or tablet/pad or a laptop) that supports a twitter application. If not or they don’t like carrying it with themselves into classes then you pretty much can’t use it when teaching in the classroom. If they do have these gadgets and are happy to use them in class you might use twitter to:
- receive feedback from your students on the lesson. They just have to hash tag (which is this sign #) the topic of discussion and send you a tweet on the lesson. They can then start a discussion on why they liked certain aspects of the lesson and why not. Students can vote on which part they thought was the most useful in the lesson by tweeting and retweeting each other.
- you can ask them to give examples of sentences where they use some of the newly learned vocabulary. They could use one new word they’ve learned during the lesson in their tweets.
- you can ask them to drill some grammar points. They could tweet a question using a particular tense and ask the others to answer the question using the same tense. In order to make it a bit more interesting you could tell them to tweet about a personal experience so they have an incentive to start with. You can always reply to their tweets adding some feedback on their tweets.
Tags: activities in class, movie maker, teaching, video editing
Windows Movie Maker is a free software if you have already purchased your windows operational system. You can use it to create and edit videos, pictures. It creates a kind of slide show as in a power point presentation although the difference is that you can publish your work on WMM directly on YouTube or process it in any other format. Of course there are more differences between WMM and PPT such as video editing options, visual effects and animations, some you might not have in PPT and it’s always visually more attractive to create a movie and not a PPTJ You can find in on your computer just by clicking the start menu button in the left corner of your windows screen and then type in movie maker. Finally, click on the Windows Movie Maker option under Programs. WMM will start and it will look like this:
WMM is a great tool for beginners and also for those with advanced tech knowledge. It’s simple to use.
How to begin
As you can see your options are on the top of the screen. The best way to begin is by adding pictures or video (pre-recorded or video from any free sites – just make sure that the videos, pictures or music you’re using in your movies do not have a copyright) to your project.
You just have to click the Add videos and photos button and then make your choices. When you add photos or videos your WMM will look like this:
On the right you have a larger version of the first picture or video from the left side. The right side is where you can view what you’re editing. You edit anything you have to by working on the left side, where the pictures or videos are imported and you also have to use the tools that are on the top of the screen.
How to use the timeline
The timeline is the black vertical line that appears at the beginning of your video.
You can drag that line wherever you want to in your movie. As you can see in the sample the timeline is now at the end of the first picture. This is very useful in order to introduce music or text only where YOU want to.
If you want to add music to it then you just have to push the Add music button and pick your choice. After adding some music your slide should look something like this:
You should observe that a green line, with the name of the song and artist, appeared on the right side of the screen just above your pictures or videos. You can try to push the play button on the left side of the screen under the larger image to see how it looks like.
If you don’t want the music to start from the first picture and you’d rather it started from the second then click on the green line (for music) and drag it while holding the left mouse button on the green horizontal line and drag it to the beginning of the second picture. It will look like this:
You can play the movie to see if you like it like this or not. If not then just drag it back to the beginningJ
Also, if you want to just change the starting point and ending point of your song, you have to click on the Music Tools button on the top of the screen. You will see some new options appear on your screen which are important for editing the song you are using in your movie. The Music Tools looks like this:
As you can see you don’t have that many options but at least you can fade in and fade out the song and add the start and end point of your music. You can choose from 3 types of fading speeds which are Slow, Medium and Fast. As for the duration of the song just type in at what time you want your music to start and at what time you want it to stop.
Now you might have noticed that you have Start time, Start point and End point.
Start time means at what time in the movie you want it to start (for example: right from the beginning of the movie or just from the second picture).
Start point is a nice tool which allows you to start the song at any moment you’d like. With this tool you can cut out the first part of the music and begin directly with the 40th second or jump start anywhere you want.
End point is the time when you want the song to end in the movie.
Music Tools with changes:
As you can see I change the Fade in and Fade out speed and also the Start time, start point and end point. As a result you can see the changes on the left side of your screen.
By now you have some pictures and music in your movie(you don’t have to add music if you don’t want to and not even text…it’s always up to you). Some of you might want to add also some text in the movie. In order to do this you have to push the Caption button which is between Title and Credits next to the Add music button.
After you’ve pushed the Caption button a caption for adding text will appear on the left screen, this time under the pictures or videos. This way it’s visually easy to distinguish the music and text timeline.
If you followed the instructions then you should be able to see something similar to this on your screen:
It’s as easy as it says under the picture in the text timeline…you just double click the text timeline and type in anything you wantJ However, if you want to make your text last longer or just change the duration of the text you have to start editing it already, but this is easy also. Just double click the text timeline or click on the Text Tools which is on the top of the screen next to Video Tools and Music Tools. This is the first and most important step towards editing your movie. When you click this section you will see that some new options will appear which are very similar to the Word Document editing options. What you have to do here is simply to click on Text duration and insert the length of the time you’d like your text to last.
When done it should look like this:
Of course you can always change the size, format, transparency, alignment and colour of your text simply by clicking on the icons above the picture on the right side of your screen. You can always re-edit your text by clicking on the Edit Text button on the top of the screen in the Text tools section.
Editing your video is very similar to editing your music. It has the same options as the Music Tools section. One extra option is the trimming option. If you have a video that you would like to have in your movie but don’t want the entire video because it’s too long or because you just want to use a part of it then you can trim it (cut it up into pieces). Trimming is quite easy in WMM. You have to click the video on the right side of your screen first and then click the Trim tool option in the Video Tools section on the top of the screen.
On the left side of your screen the trimming tool for the video will appear. You can either go to the top of the screen and add the Start point and End point for the trimmed section of your video…
You can drag the Start point and End point on the video where you want to.
In the classroom
– You could ask your students to make a movie instead of a power point presentation whenever they have to work on a project
- They could record short or long videos for their project using only their phones or if you have a video camera….well, even betterJ and add these to their movie so it becomes more personal
- You could ask them to take pictures for their project themselves (so there is no copyright issue anymore)
– You could ask them to make a movie based on a story. You’d have to ask them to think of the plot of the story together and then devide them into groups (or they could work individually also if you’d like) and ask each group to write one part of the story. Consequently, one group could create the beginning of the movie, the second group could work on the main body and the third group could think of the ending. All this with or without letting the group interact. They could then come together as a class and put their movie together as one. This can be challenging for them and teenagers or even adults always enjoy a challengeJ they can always publish their work on YouTube if they want to.
Outside the classroom
– You could ask them to keep a vlog (video blog) for a week or a month about what they have been learning for that period of time or their impressions on each lesson or each week and then edit and produce a movie about it.
– You could ask them to keep a video diary for a month or so, filming themselves maybe 3 times a week about what they learned. This way they could practice their past tensesJ if you want them to practice grammar. Nonetheless, you could ask them practice any type of grammatical issue through this and they could have some fun with it too in the meantime
– Whenever you ask them to read a book, you could tell them to choose a picture from Flickr or Google and associate it to each of the chapters in the book and tell the story through a short movie. They could have a slide of each picture and a recording of them talking about why they have chosen that picture for that chapter. This is helpful for letting them tinker about their own perception of the book and how they visualize it.