I happened across this site (Geelong's Active in Parks initiative) while perusing my tweetstream yesterday and it immediately appealed to me as a learning resource for literacy and language learning.
My quick ideas (some or all or none may appeal to you!):
1. Discuss the notion of parks and community parks, what they're for, how many and what kinds of parks the learners have access to locally, etc.
2. Launch the website on a screen for the whole class to see and let the pictures run on auto speed. Get the students into teams and have them try to get a caption for each picture/section (great for reading and note-taking fluency, as the pictures skim through relatively quickly, but also very well supported visually). After a set time, run through the pictures/captions again but leave the mouse hovering over the main picture each time (this will 'freeze' it) so that it can be adequately checked out, compared to the learners' initial notes, and discussed further.
3. In class (if your learners have access to computers) or at home, ask the learners to try and find the site using Google Search. Discuss which keywords would be best to track down the site.
4. In teams (in class) or individually (at home), have students choose and check out one particular park type they would be interested in visiting or exploring. They should research it, make a summary of the information, then present this to the class along with a quick rationale as to why they chose that particular park type. (Part of the research could involve finding and following @ActiveInParks on Twitter, looking at the tweets there and even asking the organisation some questions!)
5. Compare the Active in Parks Geelong initiative to parks and park activities available locally in the learners' own context.
6. Have the students write up a proposal for their local city council on ways they could improve park offerings, and/or improve the way local people could find out more and access their parks more effectively.
Got any other teaching/learning ideas for this sort of resource? Let's hear it!
I've been meaning to get around to these for a while, ever since Barbara Sakamoto and James Taylor asked me for tutorials on the subject (I'll assume they were almost half serious!) and so many visitors to the blog and site were kind enough to leave compliments about how professional they felt some of my materials to be in terms of formatting and presentation.
So here it is: the first English Raven materials design masterclass!
This one looks at one of the beginning steps in setting up a professional looking document: creating headers and footers. It works with Microsoft Word, which I assume many people have access to (and for those who don't, hopefully the basic actions and principles can be somewhat instructive).
I'll try to post new tutorials every week or so for those who are interested enough to want to learn from (or, just as likely -- and welcome -- critique) them.
For those who want to get more stuck into these sorts of skills NOW, you might like to check out the new materials design section of the main website. There are three full tutorials up there at the time of writing this post, with many more planned.
Oh, and if you think the formatting and ideas here are pretty plain crappy, by all means comment to that effect. I could well be deluding myself about my materials design prowess, and it would be nice for the readership to see the different perspective!
Brad Patterson's recent blog challenge to share two similar but different pictures came at a good time... The pics above were taken yesterday as part of a new Little Reader resource English Raven Jnr and I are putting together.
There's something a little bit freaky about them as well...
The pictures were taken about two hours apart, but there's one particular similarity which is amazing, considering ER Jnr was twirling his clock handle and making the hands move around at a million miles an hour. I never even noticed until we got home and downloaded the pics... for the time to be what it is on that clock at the precise moment I clicked, and the relation to the sundial two hours before...
I am regularly surprised by the power of my Samsung Galaxy S phone when it comes to the quality of the photographs it is capable of producing.
The above shot was taken today at ScienceWorks in Melbourne, with English Raven Jnr in the foreground pointing out the time according to the giant, vivid yellow sundial. The contrast of yellow against brilliant blue spring sky and the dark building -- gosh I love this shot!
This picture is one of many I took today and the collection will be used to generate a new audio/self-record book (The Science Museum) for the Little Readers section of my site.
Great fun... and great pics!
'In fact, we started to wonder if some blogs could become books...'
The snippet above comes from Lindsay Clandfield and Luke Meddings' exciting new publishing project called the round, in which (amongst other prospects) the founders raise the potential for bloggers to make the leap from blogs to e-books and apps, and (it can be presumed) actually earn some money from it.
Exciting stuff, really!
Now, I'm sure a lot of people with good, well-attended blogs must have considered, at some point, the idea that they might be able to turn all that hard work into something that goes a bit beyond occasionally sloppy vanity publishing. And with some blogs (Scott Thornbury's An A-Z of ELT springs readily to mind) you can almost see top quality e-book in the making written all over it.
However, and forgive me if I appear to be completely daft here, one particular issue strikes me as very problematic in all this blog-to-book banter. And this isn't a spontaneous question; I've done a whole range of Google searches on this issue and come up surprisingly short in terms of getting any solid answers.
Assuming you go and convert all or just parts of your blog into a book which you intend to sell, what happens to/with all the comments?
I mean, surely they can't just be loaded up into the book and sold as part of the overall package. Can they? Wouldn't each and every comment contributor need to be contacted in order to get permission? And even assuming that that could be done, what would we do in the potentially sticky situation whereby comment contributors claim some sort of rights to the book (however minor) and demand a slice of any income it generates as a commercial product? Even if the comments are not included, but the content of the posts is adapted and edited content-wise based on the feedback and contributions in the comments, doesn't this still involve the comment makers in the overall process?
I'm sure that this has been addressed by somebody somewhere, but I can't seem to find the relevant information. It strikes me as being fundamentally important in any discussion or plan for turning a blog into a book.
Even if the comments are not included in the book version, how good can the final result be, anyway? What makes blog content truly interesting is not the original post, but where it heads and why based on the readers' contributions.
By the way, I'm not planning on turning the English Raven blog into a book anytime soon. God, what a god-awful mess of a book that would be... There are very good reasons for why it's been put into blog format and delivery, among them the fact that it would make for a shocking (I'm talking quality and readability here... okay, and some of the actual content direction, too!) attempt at a book.
But let's say I plan new posts for the blog which might specifically be targeted for later conversion to e-book format... One of the first things I'd want to look at is how to handle the comments.
Will we end up having to put disclaimers in advance just before the comments sections of our blogs?
Something like: 'you may comment here, with the understanding that I may print your comment or adapt my original post based on your comment, and that you are not entitled in any way to any of the commercial proceeds should this blog be later converted into e-book or printed book format...'?
Yesterday, I released a special online version of my GrammarGolf card game application. This is something I trialled and used extensively with younger learners as a classroom teacher, and based on the exciting levels of engagement and awareness it generated, I was looking forward to making a multi-media version for the English Raven site.
However, even as I am aware of the activity's strengths based on my own experiences, I also knew this was something of a risk; dare I feel happy about a teaching application that I know probably won't get that much uptake?
See, here's the thing... I got Mrs. Raven to try it out. Being an advanced learner herself (Certificate IV level in the local parlance), I wanted her impressions and feedback.
Surprise surprise: she didn't like it very much. And not really because, despite her advanced level, she got more than a few of the sentence options wrong!
"Why have more than one possible answer?"
"Why aren't the mistake options explained?"
"How am I supposed to understand why I got it wrong?"
Mrs. R has, in my opinion, voiced criticisms of GrammarGolf that I think will be shared by a very large number of learners.
I don't want to give too much away here, but this is NOT the way younger students generally react to the GrammarGolf application. And... that is precisely one of the reasons why I think it can be such an important learning tool.
Now, from a teaching perspective, I think there will be another serious objection. The sentences are not contextualised at all! Oh my goodness... there goes the neighbourhood. And absurdly enough, I am absolutely fine with this as well.
So here is my question to you:
Do you think GrammarGolf is a grammar teaching gaffe? Why or why not?
If not, why do you think I purposely avoid giving detailed explanations and emphasize the idea of 'have a swing, and if you miss, swing again!'? Why on earth would I think that sentences without communicative context could possibly be useful?
Is this Raven a teaching emperor with no clothes, or just a straight up moron???
Posted at 06:23 PM in ELT Materials Design, EnglishRaven.com, Flashcards, Games, Grammar Activities, Raven's Nest (Flotsam and Jetsam), Reading Activities, Teacher Development, Teaching Activities, Teaching Methodology, Teaching with Technology, Vocabulary Activities | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
This was an interesting learning experience for English Raven Jnr and myself. A bit of a case of all the intentions being good, but over-enthusiasm actually clouded our judgement.
The flower pot in the picture above was our Spring Project, started months ago by selecting a range of seeds that benefit from a late winter/early autumn planting. There are actually four separate flower varieties planted there, in neat little sections so that each variety got an even quarter of the pot in which to grow and thrive (and wow us in early spring).
The little pale blue flowers on the far right were the first to bud and bloom. They've been struggling ever since, but it looks like they might make it...
The colourful, explosive flowers on the far left were the last to bud and bloom, and boy are they impressive.
Between those two extremes are (were?) the two varieties in the middle. They began to bloom not long after the first lot on the right, and they were beautiful. Vivid purple for one lot and gorgeous crimson and gold for the other lot.
And then they just (if you'll forgive local parlance) 'carked it'...
There are lessons in this for a dad who knows next to nothing about plants and gardening.
And there are lessons for the educator, too. As in, the scope of the environment and the amount of possible nutrients in it can be limited; packing in as many educational priorities and strains as possible means that, in the end, some will feed off the resources the others need and not all will make it through. The result can be lopsided, disappointing and infinitely less pretty.
Plant your seeds so that they complement each other and don't overwhelm the available space to grow.
That, and/or avoid the flower pot (and the special pre-prepared and packaged soil) altogether... concentrate on a nurturing a broader garden.
There's my 'deep' post for the week...
I've been a tad... well, productive, I guess!
All of the above is now available for free access and use in the new e-Learning section of the revamped (and revamping) English Raven website.
Posted at 10:01 PM in ELT Materials Design, EnglishRaven.com, Flashcards, Games, General Literacy, Grammar Activities, Pronunciation Activities, Raven's Nest (Flotsam and Jetsam), Reading Activities, Speaking Activities, Teacher Development, Teaching Activities, Teaching with Technology, Vocabulary Activities, Web/Tech, Writing Activities | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
As you can see, English Raven has been (self!) sentenced to some community work... The little offering above is another example of my ongoing quest to digitize more of my (originally print-based) flashcard materials and put them into a format that teachers might like to use on a screen in front of the class or even refer students to for some self study.
The entire set of community places cards consists of 48 images, including some of the following:
On the web page here, you can also find a set of activity suggestions utilising these cards and vocabulary for Cambridge ESOL YLE Starters, Movers and Flyers levels.
But here's a quick tip for those of you seeing this post, liking the look of the cards but not particularly wanting to pay for them:
Go up to that little search box at the top of the right-hand column of the blog and punch in some keywords along the lines of 'community places'... see what turns up!
A person (well-known in English Language Teaching circles -- keep that circular idea in your head for a bit...) I happen to have a great deal of time and respect for caught up with me on Skype yesterday evening. It was Lindsay Clandfield and, as many of you tuned into things like Twitter and Facebook would now be aware, he had some pretty exciting news.
Lindsay and another rather admirable fellow we all know, Luke Meddings, have just officially launched The Round, 'an independent collective of creative individuals in English language teaching' which 'arose from a series of conversations about bridging the gap between blogs and books – and about the difficulty of placing innovative, niche or critical materials with the big ELT publishers.'
However you look at this, for goodness sake don't just walk away with the idea that this is just a publishing start-up. Having been honoured with some initial inside info, I can tell you now that this initiative is going to be far more than that.
The way I am reading this, what we are looking at is something not only innovative but sorely needed: a sort of 'publisher for thePLN.' We're not really looking at anyone making stacks of cash here, but we ARE looking at riches. In multiple currencies that don't necessarily equate to printed money but do correlate to a fair deal for authors. That and a fair offering to all the innovative and creative teachers out there who have been left starving at the rim of the 'profit at all costs/lowest common denominator' big publishing square shipping containers.
If you want to see new materials produced and shared in new and vastly more appealing ways, get behind The Round.
Because I have a feeling that what goes around in this initiative will come around... for the better!
Hope to see you there. This Raven is definitely IN!
Well, he's actually listed as Master Samuri Brent and exhibits more of the traits of an overly ambitious Australian pre-teen ninja/gym member than anything else...
Anyway, as it turns out, Master Samurai Brent is now 16 years of age (he was 12-13 when he made this video) and one of my new students. Between literacy tasks on Trade-Lit, he was on YouTube looking for a new music track to play through his headphones while he went on to complete the next literacy task, and he recalled this video he'd made years before. He asked me politely if he could show it to me.
I watched it and absolutely howled with laughter. A few of the other fellows came over to see it as well, and some laughs were had all round.
In the aftermath I found out quite a lot of interesting information about Master Samurai Brent, like who the various family members in the video were and how the scene where he does a flying kick off the garden retaining wall actually resulted in him breaking his leg!
But mostly, I just got to know this young person a lot better. And he got to know that he has a teacher who is willing to get to know him, via windows he can choose and contribute.
Some people ask me what it is I do that seems to make teenagers comfortable, cooperative and productive in my classroom. I'm not entirely sure what it is that makes things work, but I daresay a little time and room for appearances like Master Samurai Brent makes a difference.
Is Master Samurai Brent (or your local version of him) welcome in your classroom?
I think he should be.
Whether for classroom use to inspire thoughts and reactions from your students or just for your own reflective purposes, I can really recommend this photostream as a place to go for particularly interesting and captivating images.
Almost all of the stuff I've seen in that photostream is available for use under a Creative Commons licence, too.
And while you're over at Flickr, don't forget the awesomely amazing ELT Pics collection. The images there are contributed by actual English teachers under a Creative Commons licence and there are now more than 5,000 pics there!
I'm positively delighted with this latest addition to the ongoing nest of experiments on the English Raven website.
The video above shows English Raven Jnr trying out my online Little Readers application, which basically allows kids to flip through a simple little storybook with text accompanied by pictures, audio and an embedded recording device.
ER Jnr's efforts, done on his own (as he often likes for me to leave the room while he tries out this stuff), showcase a couple of the ways this helps to build reading and pronunciation skills:
1. He can flip through and take on the story at his own pace.
2. He reads what he can out loud, but uses the audio provided in one part when he's not sure how to say the sentence precisely.
3. He records his own voice using the provided audio recorder and really looks forward to playing back his reading aloud performance while he flips again through the story and looks over the text.
4. He skips the review stuff at the end. He's had enough by that stage and just wants to hear himself perform the story. That's fine. He can use this the way he wants to use it, and for just the parts or ways that most interest him.
There are another four of these Little Readers stories already in printed format, but ER Jnr wants them loaded up on a screen the way this one is. I flinch at the prospect of another late night catering to his enthusiasm for this, but mostly I'm pretty darned pleased with myself...
Posted at 10:31 PM in Books, ELT Materials Design, EnglishRaven.com, General Literacy, Pronunciation Activities, Raven's Nest (Flotsam and Jetsam), Reading Activities, Speaking Activities, Teaching Activities, Teaching Methodology, Teaching with Technology, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
For the sake of hypothesis, I'd like to ask you a question. And present you with an interesting choice.
You're teaching English to children who are aged about 10-11. They've been at this English caper for about four or five years already, and have a pretty good level. Let's say they're a bit beyond Cambridge YLE Flyers level, and somewhere in the vicinity of mid-PET (or getting reasonably close to pre-Intermediate).
You're on the hunt for some new ideas and materials to use with these kids, and you roll around to good ol' English Raven's site and you see two versions of an extended teaching/learning endeavour. We'll assume for now that both versions basically match the existing language level and learning needs of your students (in terms of the linguistic demands).
Version A is a fully scripted out adventure story, complete with excellent pictures, audio files to accompany each passage of text, review questions with answer keys, and quizzes to help you with overall assessment. Oh, and a bunch of supplementary activity ideas.
Version B is the same adventure story, but almost none of the content has been provided--just the pictures. The general idea is that the learners, with assistance from the teacher, make the story up as they go, either as a class or in groups or--for those who prefer it--individually. There are prompts to help things along, as well as extensive teacher notes explaining ways to facilitate the story and to help the learners make it their own.
Please forgive me here, but I don't want any fence-sitting. It's not a crime to prefer one of these versions over the other (and yes, I know, they both have their positives and negatives).
In essence, which of them appeals to you and excites you in terms of what it could achieve in your classroom with these pre-Intermediate learners of English aged 10-11? Version A or Version B?
In some ways, I might dare to label Version A as the preference of the teacher who is coming (to the learners with planned and controlled input, first and foremost), while Version B is the tool of choice for the teacher who is going (with the learners away into new and mostly unplanned territory, working more or less from output).
So, remembering again that this is not about judging either kind of teacher, which teacher are you: the one who is coming or the one who is going? What is your instinct telling you?
Would absolutely love to read your responses to this!
Following the usual summer/winter lull in July and August (where hits to the English Raven site drop to a little under 100,000 per month), I confess to being pleasantly surprised with the numbers presented for September...
Half a million hits so far. And September ain't close to over yet.
But this got me to thinking: what exactly did I do that brought so much visitation to the site this month?
All I can really think of are newish things I haven't done a lot of for the site in the past, and those things are:
- Added a lot of fresh resources (as well as a refreshed interface)
- Really leveraged the power of social media across blog, Facebook and Twitter to get the word out there about things being added to the site
- Created something in the way of an interface between both the site and the blog in terms of making and explaining ELT materials
- Made much better use of YouTube to add audio-visual components to many of the resource pages
- Brought my son (affectionately known as English Raven Jnr) into the fold as a partner and participant, something he loves being part of and whom site visitors obviously take to given that (a) I maintain a site for teaching children and (b) he's just naturally charming and talented!
- Added a lot of free (and open source) stuff
- Added interactive components for several resources that allow learners to practise directly online (an interesting direction I've wanted to explore for a long time now: making English Raven a potential destination for learners as well as teachers)
- Perhaps just got lucky during what is (based on 10 years of site traffic to compare to) often a boom month for the site as teachers head back to classrooms for a new term
In any case, it looks like ER is in for a booming last quarter to the year (October has always been a massive month for visitation to the site).
Why post about it?
Believe it or not, for anyone out there looking at making and distributing their own ELT materials online, I thought this experience might be helpful to pass along... It's no longer a matter of making worksheets and flashcards and posting them on a members-only portal. Teachers are using different avenues to find their teaching ideas and materials and they (seem to?) expect to find different things on offer when they arrive somewhere.
Interesting to observe and think about!
Don't worry anymore if you're wondering what the hell KLOUT is all about and how on Earth you're supposed to have more of it.
There's a new social networking ranking system about to be launched, with the aim of being much more up front and honest about this whole rather ridiculous caper of human beings having social scores. It's called FLAUNT and goes straight to the heart of what this is really all about: promoting yourself mercilessly and making YOU the centre of THEIR social networking universe.
FLAUNT starts off with a refreshingly honest sign up procedure. As part of the registration, you have to agree to 'like', 'plus' and 'tweet' FLAUNT itself at least three times a day across all your existing social networks (don't worry, they have a tool that lets you automate this process, because you and they understand that social networking is not really about human beings consciously and deliberately gathering and disseminating information). You also have to agree to a plug in linked to Linked In which once a day publicizes FLAUNT and notifies everyone that you are very much linked in to yourself, and apparently there's a hook up with Foursquare (soon to be renamed For Squares) that automatically notifies everyone that you're located at you.
The payoff is that this process immediately raises your FLAUNT score to 50 out of 100, because you've shown that commitment to flaunt FLAUNT, and because you've flaunted FLAUNT you have a solid platform for starting to flaunt YOU.
As for the other tips and tricks about using FLAUNT and raising your score, don't worry. Just do what we've all already become accustomed to doing on our social networks, but (if this is even remotely possible) try to be even more trivial and self-centred about it. FLAUNT will reward you.
You don't need to feel dirty or sneaky about it anymore. FLAUNT is transparent: it's about YOU, and thanks to the culture emerging in social networking, the fact YOU are becoming more transparent (heck, haven't you noticed how you can see right through yourself in your reflection in the Internet mirror these days?) is something to be celebrated and rewarded with a more impressive FLAUNT score. Everything's out of the closet with FLAUNT. Including the fact that today you can't decide which scarf to wear.
So if you have doubts about your Klout, don't despair. Very soon you'll be able to haunt yourself and everyone you know with a serious, reliable and verifiable FLAUNT score.
I'm happy to report that a new application of Talk it Up has been put together for the English Raven website, with the capacity for students to create and actually record their own conversations or individual talks based around open, thematic icons.
This will be especially useful to teachers who want to use a more emergent methodology with their learners (rather than serving everything up in listen and repeat format, in this application the starting point is the learners' own language and communication). Directions are provided on the webpage to explain a basic process of choosing a thematic icon, talking about it (together with a classmate or on one's own) and recording the effort, transcribing their own speaking onto paper based on listening to the recording, editing and improving their own production, and retrying the task again to see if it sounds better a second time around.
This application is 100% free to all site visitors. No catches or gimmicks. On the same page, teachers can also download print versions of the Talk it Up! application in PDF, MS Word or adaptable/compatible MS Word format (to change and adapt as you will).
The website also provides some initial starting prompts for those teachers or students who need a little help converting the pics/icons into thematic topics for discussion:
So there it is, a new version of the Talk it Up! concept. Hope you'll give it a whirl with your learners, and if you do, please do let us know how it goes (or feel free to ask any questions)!
Posted at 09:21 AM in ELT Materials Design, EmLT - Emergent Language Teaching, EnglishRaven.com, Flashcards, Pronunciation Activities, Raven's Nest (Flotsam and Jetsam), Speaking Activities, Teaching Activities, Teaching Methodology, Teaching with Technology, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
I'm not sure if this is a sign of (or a coping device to try and avoid) a mid-life crisis, but I seem to be a bit preoccupied this week with how things were a decade ago. Or perhaps, as I continue to dig up and revamp material from the English Raven website, I just continue to find it staggering how far back in history ten years ago now appears to be.
The picture above shows a listening test I developed in 2001. It was an ambitious exercise in some ways, because the school I was managing at the time was using Barb Sakamoto's excellent Let's Go series and I wanted to combine the Let's Go content with the Cambridge Young Learners of English test formats. What I did was draw on the themes, vocabulary and functional language in all six levels of Let's Go and apply them as listening tests which mirrored the sections and applications in Cambridge YLE Starters, Movers and Flyers sample tests.
Even the scripts I developed for the tests mirrored exactly the style and methodology used in the Cambridge YLE tests:
TN: Hello and welcome to this Listening Test for Let’s Go 4 Units 1-4. Please listen carefully to the instructions and try to answer all questions on this test paper. Good Luck!
Part One. Look at the picture and listen to the example.
M: Today is Wednesday. What was Ted doing yesterday?
W: He was playing basketball.
M: Oh, yes. I see him now.
TN: Can you see Ted playing basketball yesterday? Can you see the line going from Ted’s name to the picture? Now listen and draw lines from the other names to the pictures.
W: What about Ted’s friend David? What was he doing yesterday?
M: He was catching butterflies. He caught a lot!
W: Really? That must have been fun! Mmm, can you see Tracy?
M: Yes, she’s right there. She was feeding ducks yesterday at the lake.
W: Right. What about Tim? Was he taking pictures with his new camera yesterday?
M: Yes, he was! And can you see Sam? Was he playing catch yesterday?
W: No, he wasn’t. He was picking up trash with his friend Sunny. The park was so dirty yesterday!
M: Right! I can see that. That just leaves Chris. What was he up to yesterday?
W: He was playing catch, of course. Can’t you see him there?
M: Oh yes, now I see him!
But of course, a script is useless without a sound track... How did we produce them?
That's right: myself and two other teachers stayed behind after school one night and recorded them all... on a cassette recorder that looked very much like the one you can see at the top of this page. Hold down the RECORD and PLAY buttons at the same time. Remember? Then use your master tape to record onto all the other tapes, one after another...
This was only ten years ago.
iPods and MP3 players weren't around then. Phones, while definitely quite small and very mobile, weren't taking pictures or recording things yet (much less taking 1 hour high quality video and connecting us to the Internet).
Today I had a teenager making assembly instructions for a catapult, and he couldn't access his CAD drawings. We popped out of the literacy classroom into the workshop, took a variety of different angle and close up photographs of his catapult with my Samsung Galaxy S, which I sent directly from the phone to his school email address. He had his assembly instructions done by the end of the class, complete with high quality photographs.
This evening, based on a quick request from yesterday on Facebook, I joined Marisa Constantinides and her YL teacher trainees in Athens via Skype for a brief video link up to discuss ELT materials design for young learners of English. As easy and convenient as glancing out the window, really.
Not long after that, I left the screencasting tool on and left the room while my son played my newly minted When-Who-What-Where card game online. The resulting video shows his screen actions, plays his voice and also the recorded voice files I had uploaded into the game. And I can show it all to you here (a fascinating example of child language experimentation and thinking out loud, I must add), basically with a flick of a (code embed) switch:
As I look at what we are doing today (and the relative ease involved) and compare it to me sitting at a table with a cassette recorder that (now) looks like a big black fridge, it really does hit me between the eyes that technology (and access to technology) has absolutely exploded over the past decade. To look back at 2001 and for it to feel like ancient history is exciting but eerie and even a little unnerving.
In ten years from now, will that screencast above and the Skype session and my Samsung Galaxy S seem as crusty and clunky as the old cassette recorder appears to us now?
The mind boggles.
Ten years ago I made 135 cards as part of a simple card-flipping game designed to get students thinking about vocabulary, pronouns, verb tenses, subject-verb agreement and overall basic sentence structure. Students of all ages loved it, and that was pleasing. It took a hell of a long time to cut out, paste together, laminate and then cut out again those little cards.
I'm enjoying a sort of renaissance over on the English Raven site as I dig up all of the old flashcards and card games there and find ways to breathe new life and practicality into them via all the wonderful tools Web 2.0 (and Web 2.5 I'm starting to think...) has dished up for us.
The new online version of When? Who? What? Where? is a pretty good example of what I'm talking about here. It used to be something you had to download and cut out (and it is, of course, still excellent for that purpose), but the version I recently uploaded to the site allows for the cards to be flipped on the screen. It also allows learners to record themselves based on the cards they see before them, listen to what they've said, re-record it if they want to, and then compare with an example sentence I've provided for them.
It was surprisingly simple to put together, and we're not talking world-quaking technology or tech skills here. But even with the limitations of (my) simplicity, it is surprisingly powerful in terms of practical, engaging practice for learners.
It's up there now and it's fully free for any learners anywhere to try out.
If you'd like to give it a whirl with your learners, I'd love to hear how they get on and what they think of it.
Has the introduction of Trade-Lit changed the way you feel about learning literacy skills at GTEC? How and why (or why not)?
Write your responses in the comments section below.
My thanks to all the people who commented here on the blog and also on Facebook and Twitter about the English Raven -- English Raven Junior collaboration on weather and seasons vocabulary. As promised, our next installment is ready to hit the web waves and I can tell you now: if you thought the weather was good, wait until you try the food!
English Raven Junior was in class form for this latest video; here are some tidbits for you to watch/listen out for:
In any case, I'm delighted with how these vids are turning out, and wish I'd had access to them when I was teaching English to little children. They're completely unscripted and beautifully enhanced with a real child's world view of things. They're real -- something we see and hear so little of in English language learning materials where pretty much everything is carefully staged.
I think they're also precious as ELT materials because while a central lexical direction is presented, it is wonderfully enhanced with all the peripheral language and comments. Even if children don't quite understand everything they hear, I think the targeted vocabulary will be very salient and there is enough use of recasting, follow up questions, intonation and emphasis to create excellent initial exposure to the language in natural use.
And most importantly of all: they can be pretty bloody funny. Kids everywhere love funny.
So get on over and see English Raven Jnr strut his stuff with food vocabulary!
Posted at 12:01 AM in ELT Materials Design, EnglishRaven.com, Flashcards, Grammar Activities, Pronunciation Activities, Raven's Nest (Flotsam and Jetsam), Teacher Development, Teaching Activities, Teaching Methodology, Teaching with Technology, Vocabulary Activities, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Check out Jason and Jamie presenting weather and seasons vocabulary here
Converting all of my old (but still awesome, in my opinion) print-based flashcard material into a more digitally friendly audio-visual format has long been on my agenda. Tonight, English Raven Junior helped me to take the first step in superb style.
Forget the publisher-produced stuff with some lady paid to sound happy and bubbly as she reads aloud items of lexis to go with glossy pictures. Step up six-year-old James Renshaw, who talks his way through a set of weather and seasons pics in a performance that couldn't have been better even if you'd scripted it.
In fact, the whisper of "did I speak clearly?" and the sneeze that took place right when the winter cards were up on the screen were definitely not scripted (I swear by my sable feathers). And the little exchange at the end... priceless.
In all seriousness, though, I'm very keen to do a lot more of this with Jamie, because (1) he really loves doing it and (2) I think it is a much better way to present vocabulary and concepts to other children. The core vocabulary is there, but the richness of the totally natural peripheral conversation is precious. Jamie himself, who has only been around other English-speaking children for a little over 18 months, is still very much a lad with an ESL background. What better way to present vocabulary and language to young learners of English than via a similar aged peer interacting conversationally with an adult with pictures on the screen?
Oh, and (3) I don't have to pay him... much.
And (4) he sounds sooooo much better than that lady the publishers hire to do this sort of thing. No offence intended, of course.
Image: Chris Roach
One of the great things about using Typepad is that it allows you to embed a really useful search box tool. I've been adding so much free content (teaching/learning material, open source content, etc.) to this blog over the past couple of years that even I ended up a little astounded when I did some random searching and saw just how much stuff is available here.
So if you've landed on this blog and you're looking for some teaching ideas or materials, I can highly recommend that SEARCH box up in the top right section of the main blog page (just below the silly picture of yours truly).
Punch something in and see what the blog rolls out for you. You might be surprised. I might be, too.
About this time last year, I wrote a blog post called Ever wanted to clone yourself to help teach a class more effectively? and referred to the power of screencasting when it comes to sort of pre-planning and pre-delivering lesson content. The basic idea: you pre-record the main chunky content stuff in your lesson (drawing on the audio and visual aspects of screencasting to enhance the delivery) and play it in class, leaving you more freedom to monitor and respond to students as the content is delivered.
If you'd asked me five years ago whether this was a particularly good idea, I probably wouldn't have been all that receptive to the idea. Nothing can replace the live on the spot performance of good teaching in a classroom with all its spontaneity and adaptation to audience of the moment, I would have argued.
Today I might argue something similar but with the observation that some things can enhance (not necessarily replace) the performance and effectiveness of the live "in the room" teacher. This is based on some extensive classroom experimentation, the surprising success of my online TOEFL school (which has no live or "in the same room" teaching at all), and some more recent observations of an online literacy program I have been developing for a blended learning approach in a technical college for senior secondary school students.
Here are some of the things I have noticed about "bottling" certain parts of lessons and presenting them through online screencasts (in classrooms where each student has access to a computer):
Personally, I love teaching to groups and having the learners all seated in a circle or U with a shared 'stage' for the teaching and learning. I'm not about to suggest this is ineffective or needs to be shelved.
However, observational experience on my part is starting to present some powerful evidence that "bottling" (and learners pouring for themselves) certain parts of lessons is a really effective approach to education.
All of this ran through my head this morning as I was working on a new batch of LEAP Speaking material for the English Raven website. I began to wonder if it might not be a valuable addition to provide screencast versions of the materials that teachers could play in class and/or allow students to access for review or private study at home.
Remember that I'm not suggesting for a moment that pre-recorded and pre-formatted lesson material replace the in-the-room-live-here-and-now teacher... any more than it already does through things like coursebooks, of course.
But I do think digital bottling can be something that really enhances what we're able to achieve in a classroom, and what learners are able to achieve on their own.
What do you think?
Posted at 08:30 PM in [RISE] Renshaw Internet School of English, ELT Materials Design, General Literacy, Raven's Nest (Flotsam and Jetsam), Teacher Development, Teaching Activities, Teaching Methodology, Teaching with Technology, TOEFL speaking, VCAL Literacy, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)