Archive for the ‘Twitter’ Category

10 Reasons Your Students Should Be Blogging.

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?

Well there are more options:

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!):

Tweet or not to tweet?

Posted: November 3, 2010 in Twitter
Tags: , ,

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:

Artwiculate

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.

 

 

 

Atlibs

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

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.

Tweet Bricks

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.

Chess Tweets

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.