Friday 30 November 2007

Making quizzes for i-pod

With the growth in interest in mobile learning and the ubiquitous nature of the i-pod among our younger (and increasingly older) students this piece of software looks like a really useful tool we can use to extend learning beyond the classroom.

The software I’m referring to is I-Quiz Maker. You can download I-Quiz Maker for free at:

Once you’ve installed it you can make quizzes using either True / False question types or Multiple Choice questions. The quizzes a very simple to make and you can make as many questions as you like and as many quizzes, as you like.
This looks like a really useful tool to:
  • help revise and develop your students vocabulary. You can write a vocabulary quiz and up- date it each week with new words that your students have learned
  • get the students to create quizzes for each other and share them
  • set up revision exercises
Although there is a bit of work involved in creating the quizzes, once you made them you’ll be able to keep them and use them again with other students.

Once you have finished creating your quiz you can then export it to your desktop and it can be uploaded to the I-pod through I-Tunes. The only catch here is that you and / or your students will need to buy the I-Quiz game for your I-pod. It is really cheap though (less than 1 US dollar / 79 p in the UK) and it does come with some ready-made quizzes.

What I like about it
  • You can set the quizzes so that students get a maximum number of questions in each game and so that they loose after a specific number of wrong answers. This should make it more competitive.
  • The game will randomise the questions so you could input 50 questions and they would get 10 or 20 random questions each game.
  • It’s very easy to use and is just simple point and click
  • You can update quizzes so that they grow as your students’ knowledge grows
  • There's a version for PC and for MAC!

What I’m not so sure about
  • Students will need an i-pod, they can’t just run the quiz on their computer or i-Tunes
  • The game is only compatible with Fifth generation i-pods (This may become an advantage as more people trade up to more modern versions and the older ones become available more cheaply second hand) which isn’t much help for students with older i-pods.
  • I couldn’t get the user manual to download so there wasn’t much documentation to help me learn how to use the software
  • I think there may have been one more question type, but I couldn’t get the button for it to work ??
  • Students will have to buy the I-Quiz game (though as I said it’s quite cheap) and that means setting up an i-tunes account.
On the whole though, despite the above drawbacks, if you have a classroom full of students who carry i-pods about then this could be just the thing for you.

Let me know how it goes



Interactive multiple choice activities

This is the third part in a series that I’m writing on how to use word processors to create computer-based materials. This one looks at how we can create interactive multiple choice activities using 'dropdown' menus.

Multiple choice must be one of the most common question types in the history of education. I’m sure we all answered them when we were at school and we have all given these question types to our students.

When I was at school, we used to call them ‘multiple guess’ questions, because we knew that even if we didn’t have any idea what the correct answer was, it had to be one of the choices, so we had a 1 in 4 or 1 in 5 chance of guessing the answer correctly.

In the movie tutorial you will see how to insert the dropdown menu, add your choices and also add a ‘help text’ which can be used to give clues or the correct answer.
Students access the ‘help text’ by clicking on the dropdown field and pressing F1 on the computer keyboard.

Here’s document with some interactive fields in. Click on them and then push F1 on your keyboard to see how they work.
There are a range of ways you can give clues
  • Direct students to a part of the text
  • Remind them about time relationships (for verb tense exercises)
  • Remind them of context
  • Remind them about part of speech or word morphology
  • Give them pronunciation clues (it sounds like)
  • Give a translation
  • Remind them of the unit of the coursebook / lesson when you covered the topic
Adding clues, rather than correct answers, will help to make the exercises developmental rather than a test of knowledge / memory.

You also need to be careful in your choice of words both when you select the word that you want to use from the dropdown activity and when you add your choices.

If you are selecting words from a text, then look for clues within the context which will help the students to deduce which word is correct.

When you add the ‘distractor’ words, try to make them reasonable alternatives. You could use this exercise to focus students on common problems, by using errors from their own written texts and the correct version as alternatives. If you do this, don’t focus only on their negative aspects, but also try to include some of their positive aspects of their work, like good use of vocabulary.

Anyway, hope you find this useful and by all means leave a comment if you have used this feature in other ways.



Thursday 29 November 2007

Machinima with Moviestorm

I recently came across a very impressive piece of software for making Machinima. It’s still in Beta at the moment, and it’s free, so I’ve spent a bit of time looking at it and seeing how it works.

For those of you who don’t know, machinima is a form of animated cinema, which is produced in computer games or virtual worlds. In some case the animated characters are ‘played’ by avatars and in others the characters are figures within a virtual world which are controlled by a ‘producer’.

Moviestorm offers the second of these two options, so once you have downloaded it from the Moviestorm site, you no longer need an internet connection and you can work alone or with a group to produce your machinima project.

The software is pretty impressive and can enable you to do many things. You can;
  • create stage sets and characters,
  • place the characters on the set
  • get them to move and interact with each other and various props
  • place cameras around the set to film the action from different places
  • create and record a script for your characters
  • lip-sync the animated characters with the recorded dialogue
  • cut, edit and render your final movie in a format which can easily be distributed on the web or CD.

So this is pretty much all you need to get started creating machinima movies.

So why do this with students?
The learning potential of the software is huge, even if you don’t ever get your students to a stage where they can produce their own movies.
  • You can get them to create characters and change them to practice language of description
  • You can use it to practice a whole range of clothing, colours and textures
  • You can get them to create a set and place things to practice prepositions of place
  • You can create your own movies to demonstrate a whole range of prepositions of movement, various tenses
  • You can add dialogue to the movies to demonstrate functional and intercommunicative language
Personally I feel though that the software is ideal for project work. You can get your students working together in groups on their own machinima projects. They can right a screen play and a script it. Record themselves and lip-sync to the animated characters, decide on and create their own scenes and stage sets. Even the act of learning ho to use the software would make for an excellent project. There is an online forum where users of the software can exchange ideas and help each other.

You would probably need to run the project over the space of a few weeks or even months and be sure to specify to students before they begin how you intend to evaluate their work on the project. I’m sure that most students would find this a motivating and creative way to practice language.

What I liked about it
  • It’s free, not too difficult to learn and doesn’t involve any programming skill.
  • Once you’ve downloaded it you don’t need an internet connection to use it
  • The tool set is great and you can make the animated characters do a whole range of things and film them from loads of different angles
  • It’s fun to use and learn and easy enough so that you can install the software and produce a short clip within an hour
  • Any films you produce with the software are your own property and you have the right to sell and distribute them!!

What I wasn’t so sure about
  • It’s a big download (almost 200Mb) so you’ll either need a good connection or a lot of patience to download it.
  • There are expansion packs with more stage sets, props and characters but you have to pay for these (not that you really need them)
  • There’s no MAC version and you need a pretty good graphics card and a lot of RAM for it to run easily

On the whole I think this is really one to watch. As more people start using it and the forum / user community builds up I think this will turn into an excellent resource.

If you want to find out more about Machinima have a look at a few of these links.
The home of machinima and probably one of the biggest collection of machinima films and links.

Machinima and education
An interesting article from Futurelab on the uses and benefits of including machinima in education
A site designed to help machinima creators within the virtual world of Second life to upload and share their creations.
Here’s a widegt from their site that shows some of the arts machinima being created in SL

More information and a definition from Wikipedia

I hope you enjoy the software and I would love to hear comments from anyone who gets their students working with it.

Friday 9 November 2007

Exploiting two computer-based RPGs

In this article I’d like to look at how we could use two computer based RPGs (Role playing games) as the basis for language development.

The two RPGs that I’m suggesting you use are both very similar and very different.
  • They are very similar in that they are both simulations of everyday life scenarios and involve day to day ‘survival’ type choices.
  • They are very different in that the situations they are based around are a stark contrast between life in a rural developing nation and life in an urban developed nation.
The first is called Stick RPG and features a small blue man living in a hotel. The player manipulates the man and makes choices for him whilst helping him to survive life in the city. The player has various options each day including fining a job, studying, eating various foods, gambling etc.

The player has to maintain health and keep his finances in check and see what he can achieve within the cycle of the game.
The second game is called Third World Farmer and features a small rural family. In this game the player needs to make decisions about how to spend the yearly budget, what crops to plant and what tools or animals to invest in.

At the end of each turn, the player gets a yearly report showing how successful the year was and how much money they have for the next year.
The games would be appropriate for teens or older learners with an intermediate+ level of English.

How to use these games with students.
Here are some suggestions for using these games in class. You could combine all or just some of the suggestions.
  • Get half of the class to play one game and the other half to play the other. Then in class get them to describe, compare and contrast the games in pairs.
  • Get the students to collect any new words they find while playing the games.
  • Get each pair to describe their own ‘story’ in the game. What happened to them and what was their outcome?
  • Get the students to compare the different problems their character had in the game. Which game do they think was harder?
  • Ask them to compare strategies. What things did they do in the game that helped them to be more or less successful? How did they change their strategy?
  • Ask them to rate the game. How good do they think it was? Did they enjoy playing it? Would they recommend the game?
  • Develop some of the themes from the games for a class debate.
  • Who do they think these games are aimed at?
  • What did they learn from the games?
  • How accurately do they depict the two different lifestyles?
  • Does playing a game like this trivialise the situations?
  • Can computer games like these educate people and change their opinions?
  • Do these games depict stereotypes rather than realities?
  • What do they think the makers of these games wanted to achieve?
  • What other political or educational computer games do they know about?
Of course you could just forget about all of the suggestions above and get the students top play the games at home and see what they learn from them.

I hope you and your students enjoy these games. Please feel free to leave a comment and suggest other games you have used for language learning.

Related links:



Thursday 8 November 2007

Teacher Training Videos

Over the last few weeks I’ve been exploring some of the content on Russell Stannard’s website. The videos aren’t pedagogical type classroom videos of teachers working with students, as you might at first assume from the title, but are video tutorials which show how to use various software and websites to develop your teaching.

What’s on the site
The site is aimed at ELT teachers who are interested in developing their technology skills for teaching purposes. The main content of the site is split into three main categories, which you can find in the left-hand column of the homepage.
  • The first is ‘General teacher training videos’
    This contains video tutorials on how to do some pretty useful stuff from how to use ITunes and download podcasts to how to create a Blog and PowerPoint tips. There’s a very useful series on how to create a Wiki and I really enjoyed the ones one PhotoShop basics ( A program that I have tried to master a number of times!)
  • The second is ‘ELT teacher training videos’
    This section is particularly aimed at the ELT teacher and looks in-depth at some ELT related sites and how best to use them. There’s a really useful review of some of the best ELT podcasts as well as a series of videos on how to use Podomatic to create and upload your own podcast.
  • The final section is ‘Multimedia learning videos’
    This contains videos that will be particularly useful for anyone who wants to learn how to use some of the major authoring programs being used to create e-learning materials. The main focus at the moment seems to be on Flash and Director. The videos go from the basics of understanding the tool set to some of the more demanding tasks, such as animation.
Each one of the topics above is covered by a whole series of as many as 20 short 2 minute video tutorials with audio narration which take you through the processes involved step by step showing you exactly what to do.

What I liked about it
  • The tutorials are very clear and are really well staged.
  • You can easily jump to just the video you want to watch from the side menu
  • The videos are short and download reasonably quickly (on my broadband connection)
  • They cover a real variety of software tools and websites
  • It’s free
What wasn’t so good
  • This is a huge collection of really well prepared and presented FREE training materials so what’s not to like?
This site really represents a wealth of free development for anyone really interested in improving the tech skills and using ICT with or to create materials for their students. Russell has obviously put in hours of time and a huge amount of work on the site to provide a really excellent resource that I’m sure teachers around the world can benefit from. Check it out at:

My eBooks and Lesson Plans