Tuesday 24 November 2009

10 Teacher Development Task for Web 2.0 Tools

Over the last couple of months I've been busy travelling round a bit and doing some face to face training and workshops. As part of the materials for these workshops I created a number of tasks for teachers which I hope will help develop their ability to use technology and to evaluate and create materials using web based tools. I've decide now to share those tasks so anyone who wants to use them to train other teachers or to develop their own skills can take advantage of and make good use of them.

There are ten tasks and they can be done in any order, except for the tenth one which should be last. Please feel free to use and share these tasks and by all means leave any comments or suggestions for improvement. I will also be hosting a teacher development week using and discussing these tasks and the related tools from 7th to 15th December 2009 on the SEETA Moodle site: http://www.seeta.eu/ so by all means come along for that if you want to share ideas and learn a bit more together.

10 Tasks to help teachers develop their use of learning technology

  • Task 1
    This task explores the use of TokBox, a synchronous and asynchronous video conferencing and communication tool. In this task you will look at and evaluate some teaching materials I have created using the tool and see how you can use it to create your own materials.
    Go to task

  • Task 2
    This task explores the use of Voxopop, a tool for the creation of web based audio discussion threads. In this task you will see how other teachers have used the tool and have the opportunity to participate and contribute to an online audio thread.
    Go to task

  • Task 3
    This task explores how Forvo, the web based pronunciation dictionary, works and what it can offer teachers and learners. In this task you will explore some of the entries and have a chance to add your own example pronunciations to the dictionary.
    Go to task

  • Task 4
    This tasks explores the design of Listen and Write, a tool for the creation of web based dictation activities. In this task you will be able to try a dictation exercise and see how autonomous learning is supported through the design of the tool. You will also have the chance to create your own activity.
    Go to task

  • Task 5
    This task explores the use of ESL Video, the web based video activity creation tool . In this task you will be able to examine and compare three different video activities to see how the tool can be exploited. You can then attempt to create your own activity based around a video clip of a bank robbery.
    Go to task

  • Task 6
    This task explores the use of 280 Slides, a web based tool for creating online presentations. In this task you will see how you can use the tool to add video or images to presentations and so create video based learning activities or multi media presentations.
    Go to task

  • Task 7
    This task explores the use of Dvolver, a very simple tool for creating animated movies. In this task you will be able to watch a video created using the tool and then evaluate its potential and limitations whilst creating your own animated video.
    Go to task

  • Task 8
    This task explores the use of Wallwisher, a web based 'sticky notes' notice-board. In this task you will be able to look at how the notice board has been used to share a range of web 2.0 tools and also have the opportunity to contribute your own favourite site to a notice-board to see how it works.
    Go to task

  • Task 9
    This task examines the use of Wordle, a web based tool for creating graphic representation of texts based on word frequency. In this task you will learn how to create your own graphic image based on a news article and explore some potential uses for the tool.
    Go to task

  • Task 10
    This final task looks at Penzu, a simple tool for keeping a web based journal. In this task you explore how to create your own journal and then create your own reflective journal entry based on the work you have done in the previous task.
    Go to task
I hope you find these tasks useful. Please do leave a comment or suggestion for improvement or any recommendations for links or other examples of materials created using these tools.

Related links:

Nik Peachey

Tuesday 27 October 2009

Creating an Online Journal for CPD

The importance of careful thought and reflection on what we do as both teachers and learners can not be overestimated in terms of the learning process and retaining information in a way that we can actually use it and make it part of our experience and practice.

Keeping a teaching or learning journal can be a really important part of this process of reflection and writing entries can help us to reformulate what we have read or analyse our experiences and draw conclusions from them which we can later return to, share and reflect on again.

For me Penzu is a really good tool which can help me and my students or trainee teachers to do this.

How to create your learning journal

  • You will need to create a password and enter a username, email address and agree to the terms of use. Then you just click on ‘Submit’.

  • You can then start creating your journal entries by adding a text and title. Each entry is dated automatically and you can move from one entry to another using the tabs on the right of the page.

  • To add pictures, you simply click on the ‘Insert Photo’ icon at the top of the page and locate an image on your computer and upload it.

  • Once you have uploaded your pictures you simply click to insert the ones you want to use.

  • The picture will appear in the margin and you can then drag it up or down to line it up with the text. Users click on the images to enlarge them.

  • To share journal entries you click on the share icon and this enables you to email your entry to someone else. You can either include your name and email along with a message or this can be done anonymously.

How we can use Penzu as a journal tool.
  • We can write short summaries of articles we have read and make a note of what our personal main points of interest or learning were from the article.
  • We can keep a journal of our teaching or training work and reflect on how classes went, compare these to our expectations and make notes of things we would like to try differently next time.
  • We can use it as an action research journal recording what we do in each lesson and setting out our objectives for the action research project. We can also ask students to use it to keep a journal of their reflections on our teaching and we can ask them to send us entries anonymously so that we can get unbiased feedback from our students on our teaching.
  • We can include it as part of a peer to peer development program and partner up teachers to watch each others classes, reflect on what they saw and send each other entries.
  • We can use it as a simple record of what we did in the class and what we want to do to follow it up in the next class.

The vital thing with all of these activities is that we return to our entries and reflect on what we wrote some time later. Immediate responses to what happens in our classes can be very subjective and emotional. If we record those responses and then come back to them at a time when we can be more objective we are often able to gain much greater insights into what happened in the class. In this way the journal enables us to capture thoughts and feelings that would otherwise be lost.

What I like about Penzu
  • It’s free and very simple to use.
  • The entries are private, but be can be shared
  • We can add images to make the entries more memorable
  • It can be accessed from anywhere
  • It’s quick and date stamps entries for us

What I’m not so sure about
  • It would be nice to be able to add a few hyperlinks (I think this is possible in the ‘Pro’ paid for edition.
  • It would be nice to have the option of having images in the text rather than just in the margin (again, probably available in the ‘Pro’ edition)

Well that’s about all I have to say about Penzu for now. I’ve focused on its uses as a tool for teacher development here, but it is also a great tool to use with students too. For more information on using Penzu with students check out my teaching manual Web 2.0 Tools for Teachers, which you can read or download for free.

Related links:

Nik Perachey

Thursday 1 October 2009

Revising Short Texts and Syntax on IWB

WordMagnets is a really useful tool that students can either use alone on a computer, or that you can use in class with a projector or IWB.

Here's a short video showing you how to use it.

You can download a copy of the video here and copy suitable for iPod here.

WordMagnets is a simple tool that allows you to paste text into a field and then click a couple of times to change the text into word tiles a little like fridge magnets that you can drag and rearrange. Here's a text that I quickly copied in from an article about J. K. Rowling.

I clicked on 'Next', then ignored the opportunity to change the background and clicked 'Next' again and I had these randomised word tiles that I could then drag to recreate the text.

This is a great tool that has some really useful features. You can type in and add words to the text, or you can delete word tiles from the text by clicking on remove then clicking the words you want to get rid of.

You can also change the colour and size of the tiles, which could be useful if you really want them to stand out on a whiteboard or dataprojector.

How can we use this with students?

  • Revising text - You can get students to test themselves working alone or in pairs on a computer. They simply copy and paste short snippets of text into the text field and generate their won activities. Just two sentences at a time should be enough (Try it, it's harder than you think). Then they have to drag the words back into the correct order. They can check against the original source to se if they get it right. This is great to help them develop an awareness of syntax and collocation.
  • Dialogue build - You can type or copy some short dialogues either from your coursebook or by grabbing text from a movie script (Here's a site that has a huge collection of movie scripts that you can copy and paste from: Drew's Script-O-Rama). First get the students to read or listen to the short dialogues then get them to work together to arrange the words into the correct order (This would be a great time to have the dialogue on an IWB and students could actually come up and drag the words into the correct order themselves).
  • Once you have the words in order you can get students to practice saying the dialogue. Once they have done it a few times, gradually start deleting words. Start with less important ones like articles and prepositions, so that the key 'sense' carrying words remain. See if your students can still say the dialogue. Then ask them to rebuild the text again adding the missing words. This is a great way to get students internalising dialogue.
  • Error noticing - You could use the tool to revise a text with the whole class and actually add in some words that didn't appear in the text as distractors or delete some words and see if students can guess which ones are missing.
  • Extending sentences - You could get the students to arrange a short sentence and then start adding new words to it to lengthen the sentence like the telescopic text from this exercise: Extending a Sentence. You could suggest a word to add to the sentence and then students can decide how and where they make it fit and what other words they need to add with it.
  • Focus on form - You could use it to focus on form by creating an exercise using examples of sentences with a specific structure that you want to revise. Get the students to arrange the words of the sentences then highlight similarities in structure.
  • Parts of speech - You can get students to colour code the parts of speech in the sentence of colour highlight collocations, etc.

What I like about it
  • Word magnets is free, easy to use.
  • You can use it to create materials and exercises almost instantly without any preparation.
  • Once the Flash swf file is open it works quickly in your browser and so doesn't require a fast connection or any software downloads.
  • It can push students to really think about syntax and collocation without having to focus too much on applying sets of rules.
  • It makes text much easier to manipulate on an IWB (if you have ever tried to create an exercise like this on an IWB, you'll know that it takes a long time).
  • You can get students up to the board and moving the words around and changing the colours themselves.

What I'm not so sure about
  • It's a shame you cant save activities, but at least this means that you aren't violating copyright by cutting and pasting text as all activities are transitory.
  • It would be useful to have a solution button that you could click and see the words in the right order. Again though this could also be a benefit because it encourages students to keep trying rather than give up and get the answer.
WordMagnets is a really useful tool whether your students are working alone or whether you are working with them using a projector. I hope you find it useful.

You can find more text based activities for EFL and ESL students here.

Related links:

Nik Peachey

Wednesday 22 July 2009

Using Wise Quotes with EFL ESL Students

I've always found wise (and sometimes not so wise) quotes really useful, both within the classroom with students and as a way of introducing a topic when writing materials. I've used lots of different websites to find quotes over the years, but iWise is certainly about to become my new favourite as it seems to have taken wise quotes to a new level.

You can search for quotes by keyword, look at quotes of the day, browse quotes by topic or just click for a random quote.

That isn't all, iWise is compatible with Twitter and allows you to re-tweet quotes or subscribe to and follow tweet feeds from your favourite sources of wisdom.

If you decide to search by topic etc, it even pulls in tweets from Twitter too.

So how about some quote activities with our EFL ESL students?

Here are some suggestions:
  • Get students to find a random quote and translate it into their own language or find a parallel quote in their own L1.
  • Collect 8 - 10 quotes on a similar topic and get students to discus them and see which ones they prefer / most agree with.
  • Get 8 - 10 quotes and cut them in half to create a matching activity. Get your students to match the two halves of each quote.
  • Get you students to match the quotes to the writer of the quote.
  • Give your students a list of 6 - 8 topics and ask them to find their favourite quote on each topic, then compare them in class and discus / have a class vote on which is the best (students should try to convince others in the class that theirs is the best quote)
  • Get two+ quotes on the same topic. Print them up and put them around the class get the students to stand by the one they most like / agree with and discus why.
  • Choose 2 -3 people and get your students to find their best quotes, then compare that quotes and try to decide which of the people is the wisest.
  • Give the first part of some quotes to your students and see if your students can write an ending to it.
  • Find some quotes about someone and see if the students can guess who they are about.
  • Use a single quote at the start of each lesson to lead in to the theme of the lesson.
  • Use a single quote at the start of each lesson as a warmer and ask students if they agree / disagree with the quote. They could give it marks out of ten too. Keep a league of favourite quotes.
Why do I like it?
  • It's free and really simple (but also quite complex)
  • Some amazing features that really take advantage some Web 2.0 technology
  • Lots of fast and varied ways to access the quotes
  • There are loads of quotes from a real range of sources
  • There is an iPhone ap which can enable you to get all this information via your iPhone or iPod Touch so great for mobile learners

What I'm not so sure about
  • The site is so dynamic that you can see then loose quotes pretty quickly if you are just browsing.
  • Some quotes can be a little abstract!
  • The site is free, but the ap isn't, but it is very cheap (59p in UK). Here's a video showing how you can use it.

NB: I have bought the ap, but haven't tried it yet so this is NOT and endorsement of the ap.

I hope you enjoy iWise and the ideas here. Please leave a comment if you have any other favourite quote sites or suggestions for how you have used quotes with students.

Here you can find more online reading activities for EFL ESL students

Related links:


Nik Peachey

Friday 17 July 2009

20 WebCam Activities for EFL ESL Students

Back in November 2008 I published Part 1 of a series of articles intended to explore the use of WebCams in education. I have now finally got round to writing Part 2 which is a collection of 20 activities EFL ESL teachers can do with their students.

Here are some links to useful free video communication tools that you could use for these activities.
  • MailVu is a simple to use app which runs in the browser and enables students to record a short message which can be sent by email.
  • EyeJot is another simple video email app which also has a mobile version.
  • Skype is of course the mainstream choice for synchronous communication.
  • Oovoo is a Skype competitor which also enables the recording of video interviews by capturing both interviewer and interviewee.

20 WebCam Activities

1. Chinese - video dictation - whispers
- Use the video email feature to record a short text. Send it to the first of your students. Ask your student to write down the message and then record it themselves and send it to the next student. Each student should rerecord and send the message on to another, until the last student sends it back to you. You will then see how accurately the message matches to your original text.

2. Interactive video learning diary - You could get students to create an interactive learning diary, they could email you their video summary of what they feel they have learned each day and you could then respond. The videos would form a good learning record and students will be able to look back at them later and see how they have improved - quite literally - and also hear the improvements in their speaking ability. This is also a great way to give your students one-to-one-time which can often be a problem in class.

3. Class survey - Action research - You could send a video message to your students with a class survey question that they could respond to. This would be a good way to carry out classroom research, decide on learning goals and make sure that all students had a means to feedback to you in private and on an individual basis.

 They could also create their own questions and send them to each other, then feedback in class.

4. The witness - Show half of your students a video clip or picture, that includes a number of people (scenes from films with bank robberies, where a number of people are involved are quite useful for this). Then ask the students to imagine that they are one of the people in the film or picture and they need to describe what happened. Ask them to record a video statement giving their account of what happened in the first person. You can then ask the other students to imagine they are detectives and watch the clips your students have created and make notes to piece together what happened. Afterwards they can watch the original film clip together in class and you can see how well they did and what they missed.

 Here's an example bank robbery scene
5. Favourite poems or haiku - Students could record themselves reading their favourite poem or haiku, you could then embed the videos into a web page or blog as a class poetry collection.

6. Video twitter - Using the feed feature you could create a kind of video Twitter, with your students video micro-blogging about learning English, their day at school, or any topic they find interesting.

7. Text and video error correction - Using the video email feature, you could record a video of yourself reading a text, then add the text within the email message. You could include some errors in the text and get them to watch the video and correct the errors.

8. Create a collaborative story - Email students a video with the first line of a story and ask them to record your line of the story and add their own, then pass it back, or pass it on to another student. This way you could build up a story between the group over a period of time.

9. Tip of the day - Send you students a learning tip each day by video email. These could be exam tips, study tips, recommended website etc.(The URL for the website would appear in the text part of the message below the video.)

10. Video dictation - Send a video email of yourself dictating a text and ask your students to watch and write the text in the email and send it back to you for correction.

11. Vocabulary record / word of the day - You could ask your students to create a video to record the words and example sentences. You could also do something like this yourself as a kind of 'Word of the Day' channel.

12. News Reports - Ask students to read the news ( in English or their own first language) and then produce a video news report on one of the main stories that they are interested in.
 They could also create their own local or school video news channel for other students to subscribe to.

13. Present continuous (sound on or off) - You can record video clips to demonstrate present continuous sentences. You can do this with sound on or with sound off and the students can guess the sentence

14. Questions for response - You could set up clips with questions and ask your students to respond online. They could also set up a sequence of their own questions for other students to respond to.

15. Guess the object - You or students could record a description of and object and viewers have to listen and guess what the object is. Getting students to create these clips will help them to be concise and really identify the key concepts behind describing objects.

16. Sales pitch - A variation on the idea above is to ask students to produce a video trying to convince users to buy a particular object. Again this helps them to identify key concepts, gives them practice with using language of persuasion and it may well help them to push for faster speaking speeds and better fluency.

17. Moods - You can create video clips of yourself or your students expressing different moods. This can help them to learn the vocabulary of the moods, but you could also use it to get students to predict the cause of the mood ( and practice present perfect; "He's angry because he has just been made redundant." etc.)

18. Live tutoring support - Video conferencing is an ideal tool for supporting distance learners and doing 'face to face' tutorials.

19. Video interviews - You could get in touch with someone for your class to interview. Just have one computer plus camera set up in class, and a visiting expert, friend or colleague on the other end for your students to interview. They could also interview an expert in groups from home with a conference call.
 The interview doesn't have to be done 'live' it could also be done through a series of email video messages sent to the interviewee.You can try it here by watching this video and then clicking reply.

20. Video lesson with conferencing - You could use the conference call to videocast your lesson or presentation to a group of distance learners.

I hope you find these suggestions useful and manage to use some of them with your students. Do drop me a line if you have other recommendations for useful video conferencing tools or activities. You can find more video related activities for EFL ESL here.

Related links:


Nik Peachey

Wednesday 20 May 2009

Brainstorm and Debate Collaboratively

This morning I spotted Solvr on MakeUseOf and decided to give it a try. Solvr is a free easy and interesting way to collaboratively brainstorm and attempt to solve problems online.

It's very simple set up. You just got to http://www.a.freshbrain.com/solvr/ type your problem into the field and then click 'Start'.
You will then see your problem with a number of options underneath.

You can add different elements of the problem, make suggestions by adding ideas and leave comments.

The collaborative part comes in when you share the URL with someone, then other people can come and join in the problem solving and brainstorming. Here's the URL for the 'Making a living 'problem I set up.

I also set up a problem earlier on today, which was about integrating technology into the ELT classroom. I added a couple of elements of the problem and then posted it to Twitter. With a few minutes, the problem started to develop as people added in comments solutions, and even started to vote on the solutions.

If you would like to see how this problem is developing go to http://www.a.freshbrain.com/solvr/d/eltrilxlwu and feel free to contribute.

So how do we use this with students?
We can set up a whole range of debates and online collaborative tasks.
  • You could set up debates on the environment or other issues that your students find relevant. Here's an example on how to end world hunger. Each students could have their own topic to brainstorm the elements and causes of the problem, then students could exchange links and try to offer solutions to each other's problems.
  • You could use Solver to get anonymous feedback from your action research tasks. This would also enable you to enter into debate with the students and get a deeper level of understanding of their responses.
  • You could use it to address classroom issues or learning issues and explain some of the rationale behind activities. This would enable students to safely and anonymously discuss the issues with you. Here's an example We don't like reading in class
  • You could use it to brainstorm vocabulary around a topic or theme and then get your students to add definitions, and other elements of information about the words, like their parts of speech, collocations, example sentences etc. Here's an example on politics. Feel free to add to it.
  • We can get students to share their strategies for learning English. Example: How can we improve our English?
  • You could use Solvr to plan an events like a class outing, party or doing a play. This way you can get students to think about the different jobs involved and decisions to be made, decide who will do them and explore the potential obstacles.
What's so good about it?
  • It's free. very quick and really simple to use.
  • It encourages critical thinking skills and the breaking down of problems into manageable elements.
  • It encourages debate and interactive discussion.
  • It's very versatile.
  • Great for interactive homework tasks
  • It can be used synchronously or asynchronously.
  • It can give students time to think about and review what they write.
  • Students can see the ebb and flow of ideas and opinions and the way they interact.
  • Solvr also seems to work in Second Life. Check out Peter Miller's posting: Problem Solvr
  • It's anonymous so students can be honest without being identified.
What I'm not so sure about
  • It's anonymous, so can be open to abuse.
  • It shouldn't be used to replace face to face debate in class, where that is possible, but could be useful to prime students before class so they have more ideas when they come to class for discussion.
  • Carries some advertising, but students can be asked to ignore the ads.
  • It's still being tested, so you debates could disappear or there could be bugs.
I think Solvr is a really useful addition to any teacher's technological tool set, especially if you are involved in any kind of distance learning courses. I hope your students enjoy it and that you think of other useful ways to use it.

Related links:

Nik Peachey

Monday 13 April 2009

Using Online Sticky Noticeboards

For the last few days I've been playing with WallWisher a handy tool for creating online noticeboards that you can add sticky notes to.
It's very easy to create your own noticeboard, just click where it says 'Build a Wall' and you'll see a new wall with some options on it that you need to complete. Basically these are:
  • Uploading an image
  • Choosing colours
  • Adding title and subtitle
  • Creating your password
  • Deciding who can see and add to your wall
Once you have done this you just click the big 'Done' button and you are almost ready to start adding content to your wall. Before you start to add content you'll need to check your email account where you should find your password. Then you just log in to your wall and double click on the wall to start adding the sticky notes.

The sticky notes are quite simple, you just add some text and you can either link to an image, a video or a web page.

The nice thing about this is that when users click on the link it opens in a pop up browser over the wall. This means that you can use your wall to focus students access to sites like flickr or Youtube and stop them drifting into other content. It also means that you can use the wall to set up specific activities and get your students to post their responses on the wall (as long as you have selected 'Everyone' to allow others to post to the wall)

So how do we use this with students?
  • We can create video tasks and get students to post responses to the wall by leaving it open for everyone to contribute. Here's a wall that I created about Ramadan. This wall has been left open for anyone to contribute to.
  • We could use the wall to collect different links to various resources around the web for students to explore, a little like a web quest or treasure hunt.
  • We could give students a theme and get them to create their own walls based around that theme.
  • We could get students to create fan walls based around a favourite band or celebrity.
  • You can use the wall to collect and share resources like this one on IELTS
  • You could use the wall to set up video or image based activities. Here's a video activity that I have set up for teachers based around a Mr Bean Video. Feel free to contribute.
  • This activity uses an image to get students to practice using present continuous.
  • You can use the wall to create debates. You can do this either by posting your own contentious opinions or using videos from sites like BigThink.com and get students to respond. This could be a way of dealing with sensitive issues and enabling students to be able to express opinions that they might not feel comfortable doing in the classroom. Here's an example
  • We can even create grammar walls and get students to post what they know and examples of different verb tenses or grammar points.
  • We could even get students to post their wishes on it using third conditional.
  • Or last but not least we could use it to notify our students or parents of homework assignments and keep them up to date with what's happening in class.

What I like about WallWisher.
  • It's free and easy to use and requires a minimum of registration info
  • I like the way the links open in a pop up over the page
  • You can embed the wall into a blog or website
  • Your wall produces an RSS feed which can make it easy to keep track of what is being added
  • Students can get involved and post brief comments or create their won walls
  • It can be used collaboratively
  • Great way to create easy online learning tasks
  • It looks nice

Things I'm not so sure about
  • It would be nice to have a few more controls about who posts to the wall. At present it's either only the creator or everyone! Would be nice to be able to invite people to post to it.
  • I'd also like to be able to add / embed more than one link into a sticky note so that you can include an image or video and a link to a site, but you could get round this by adding more than one sticky.
  • Would be nice to have a bit more control over how the embedded wall appears in a web page. Here's what mine looks like.

Well I hope you like WallWisher and find it useful. If you have other ideas for how to use it please do post comments and links.

Related links:


Nik Peachey

Friday 20 February 2009

Getting Video Tasks Online

I've been aware of 280Slides for some time now, but haven't really tried to use it much as I'm a very keen user of Keynote on my MAC, but this week I was looking around for ways to get video type lessons online and discovered what an incredibly easy and useful tool 280Slides is for this.

Basically 280Slides is an online tool for creating presentations. It works in a very simple way and has a very intuitive interface which is very quick to understand. It has a few basic themes and layouts and you can do all the usual things like adding text, shapes and images to your presentations.

The two key areas though that I like about 280Slides are:

1. It's really easy to import and embed video into you presentation. Just click on the 'Movies' icon add a search term. Find your video and double click it and there it is in the the presentation.

2. It's really easy to share the presentations online. Just click on the 'Share' icon and you get the options to publish to Slideshare, email as a PowerPoint or (and this is the one I like best) get an embed code for your blog or direct URL.

This is a quick easy lesson I created and you can compare the two last options below.

This is the embed version, just click the bottom right icon to see it full screen.

This is the direct link version: Led Zeppelin or the Beatles

How about using this with students
Well as you can see this is a great easy way create materials that exploit video.
  • You can create listening tasks with questions and comprehension questions.
  • You can get students to create their own video related projects by getting them to import video into the slides and write about them.
  • Great for digital narrative which combines video images and text
  • You could get students to import significant news clips and respond to them.
  • You can combine video into grammar presentations with videos that demonstrate grammar points
  • You could just use it to make your presentations and get them online
What I like about 280 Slides
  • Really quick easy to understand interface.
  • Works in the browser so no software to download or install.
  • Great way to make YouTube videos accessible without sending students to the site.
  • Easy enough for students to use.
  • Free and no sign of advertising.
  • The only information they ask for is email address.
  • Really quick way to get materials online without having to illegally download video or have server / web hosting space.
  • Really professional looking results.
  • Embedding the videos into sides with tasks might discourage students from wandering off to look at other YouTube videos.
  • Great to have an embed code for blogs.

What to watch out for
  • It's still in Beta and free and I can't see how anyone makes a living from the site, so they may start charging or advertising, but until then ...
  • If YouTube is blocked in your school, this probably won't solve the problem, though you can get students to access your video activities from home.
  • It doesn't have all the powers of a commercial product like PowerPoint, but how many people use those powers anyway?
Hope you find 280Slides useful.

Related links:

Nik Peachey

Friday 13 February 2009

Can Music Aid Memory of Text?

This is a really interesting site that I spotted a little while back. The site was inspired by the late great John Cage, one of the most revolutionary composers of the last century.

The site is called P22 Music Text Composition Generator and you can find it at: http://p22.com/musicfont/
What the site does is to convert a written text into musical notation with a midi music file to play the notation.

It's quite simple to do. You just copy and paste your text into the field, give it a file name (with no spaces or punctuation) choose the speed and instrumentation, then just click to generate the notation and midi file.
Then you get a printable copy of your notation and a midi music file that you can download and play.

I copied and pasted this blog text in and generated this music file with it.
Well I can hear people thinking; "What's this got to do with language teaching?" and that's a really good question, so here's how this 'might' work.

How to use this with students
  • You could produce a music file to play as background while students read the text used to create it. This could build up associations between the music and text and might help them to revise and review elements of the text. You just play the music file a week or so later and see what they can remember from the text (vocabulary, main points).
  • It could also be interesting to build up a music text library and see if your students can remember which text went with each composition. Just play a music file and see which text they think it is.
  • Students could produce musical versions of dialogues and see if listening to the music can help them to remember the dialogue.
  • You can produce the musical accompaniment to stories or plays and use it as background to reading the words.
  • Get your students to play with the speed and instrumentation and produce the best accompaniment to a text. They could listen to each other's composition and choose the most appropriate one and try to explain why it works best for that text.
  • For students who like creative writing such as stories or poems it might be nice for them to also have their own musical version of the text.
  • You or your students could create short musical versions of example sentences that show how vocabulary or grammar points are used.
  • Students could write a text about themselves and then generate their own personal music.
  • If you have any musical students you get them to try to play the notation.
Well I know these ideas are certainly on the borders of ELT methodology and I'm not convinced that they will all work for all or any of your students, but I would be really interested to hear how you get on if you try them.

What I like about the site
  • It's free, quick and easy to use.
  • It produces something that to my knowledge is quite unique
  • The midi files it produces are very small and could be emailed (The one I produced 0f this text is 30 mins long, but still less than 30K)
  • I like the musical angle and the appeal to different learning styles
  • Nice to see anything that promotes the ideas and musical concepts of John Cage

What I'm not so sure about
  • Would be great to have an embed code for the midi file so that you could upload to a blog more easily (I hyper linked to mine, but might put it on my own server space then link to it as it might not stay on te website server for very long)
  • Would be great to be able to select more than one instrument
  • Good idea to select either a short text or a fast speed as the compositions can be quite long
Anyway. I hope you enjoy trying out some of these ideas with your students and please let me know how they go.

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Nik Peachey

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