Create Great Presentations: Haiku Deck

Welcome to the last blog post of the semester. It is incredible how time flies! This week, I have decided to review Haiku Deck.

UnknownasdasdasdI was introduced to that tool in my Computer Application class. Haiku Deck is a tool similar to Power Point and Keynote. You can access it on the website (click here) or on the app for iPad (click here). There is an app for iPhone, but that app only allows you to view you the presentations you created. You cannot create or modify your presentations on your iPhone. Although I think it is probably coming up. When you click on the plus sign on the iPhone app, it says:

You will soon be able to create presentations on your iPhone! In the meanwhile, you can use the Internet website or the iPad app.

Like most of the tool I reviewed, it is free and super simple. To get started, you need to create an account. You need an email and a password or you can sign in with Facebook or Twitter account.

Haiku Deck is a tool that creates slide presentations. It can be any type of presentation: for teachers, students, business people, or anyone who wants to create a cool looking presentation.

Once you have logged in into your account, you have access to all your presentations. The first step is to click on one of the presentations, you can choose to edit, share or export that presentation. If you decide to share, you can do so through Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+. You can also email it or copy the link. If you decide to export it, you can export the presentation as a PowerPoint or Keynote file and also as a PDF.

Let’s talk about what interest us the most, creating a presentation. You click on the plus sign in the middle at the bottom of the screen. Then, you need to give a title to your presentation. You now get to the creation page. On the left side, there are four icons of different colors. They are (from top to down): choose a format, set the background, select a layout, and add some notes.

You can choose different fonts and themes proposed by Haiku Deck. There are five free ones and many others that you have to pay for. From there, the creative process starts:

You can select the slide type that you want:

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You can decide to add pictures. Haiku Deck already have a huge bank of good quality images. The tool also uses the words you have in your presentation to suggest different images to you, which is called an integrated Creative Commons image search by the Planeta e-Learning website. You can import your own pictures from your computer or iPad as well.

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You can also add figures to your presentation. There are really easy to create:

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You can also choose to have a plain color as background:
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You can choose how you want your titles to appear in the slide:

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Finally, you can add notes to your presentation:

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You can also set the privacy settings. You can choose to have your presentation public, restricted or private. You can see all the other presentations that people have decided to leave public and people can see the presentations that you have left public.

Everything is incredibly easy! As the Macworld website writes, when you enter text, the tool adjusts the spacing and the size to create the best layout as possible. You do not have to spend hours trying to make everything fit perfectly. The Macworld website summarizes it as dummy-proof app and I agree with that statement.

As an ESL teacher, I think this is a great tool. You can create class presentations easily. One nice thing is that the presentation are created really fast. Students cannot spend hours changing the font or adding transitions and other features that they like to spend hours changing and trying. Teachers can present class instructions of new activities using Haiku Deck. They can also use it as visual aids for functional language or for new vocabulary, which I think is the best use for ESL teachers. Students can use it to present book report, research, explain pictures taken in a specific context, etc. It is possible to be creative with all the applications for students and teachers of Haiku Deck. It is an amazing tool if all students have access to an iPad, but teachers can still use it in the computer lab of the school. The students can work in teams and each access the presentation via the website. I recommend teachers to create a single account for all their students. All the presentations are kept at the same place and can easily be found by the teacher and the students. The Tutela website gives other applications of the tool, such as create short how-to guides, create ‘About me’ presentations, create and explains facts on a topic, and introduce grammar points. Moreover, the Edshelf website gives more example of applications of the tool which I thought were excellent: make a top 10 list, tell a story with words and pictures, share highlight from a trip or event, create a visual resume, illustrate an idea, and many more.

Every time you change the presentation, the tool automatically saves it. You do not have to worry about losing your presentation.

Haiku Deck is a simple tool because they limited the features available. I personally think that the features offered are enough for creating great presentation slides. The look of the presentations is really professional. As Scott Berkun writes on his website, the tool is made so you create better presentations. You cannot fill the slide with tones of text or bullets. You have to keep the slide simple and clean, which is what a slide presentation is supposed to be. The Planeta e-Leanring website points out a good argument: students have to know their material before presenting because they cannot just read the slides since there is a limited amount of text that a slide can have.

Overall, I was really impressed by Haiku Deck and I strongly recommend it!

Thanks for reading all my blog posts through the semester! Let me know in the comment section which tool you preferred or other tools that would be interesting for next year.

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Creating Quizzes : Socrative

Welcome to this week’s blog post! The semester is almost over, but I still have two more tools to discuss with you first.

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This week, we will learn more about Socrative (find it here). A few weeks ago, I talked about Kahoot!, a website where you can create online quizzes. Socrative is a similar tool.

Socrative is a free tool available online. It gives instant feedback, allows teachers to have personalized content, creates reports and is compatible with any device or browser (find all the apps here). The EdShelf website describes it like so: Socrative brings smart clickers, student response and ease of use to a whole new level.

The first thing you need to do is create an account. You can do so as a teacher. When you get on the website, you can login as a teacher or as a student. You only need an email address. Your students only have to enter the room number, which is written at the top of your page to connect with you.

Once you are in your account, you get to your dashboard. You have the following options: start a quiz, quick question, space rate or exit ticket. The space rate is a space where your students can compete in teams. You first select a quiz, the number of teams, either auto-assign teams or students-select teams and finally, chose the avatar (e.g.: rocket, bee, unicorn, etc.). First team to get their rocket across the screen wins.

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On the left hand corner, you can click on Manage Quizzes. You can create quizzes, import a quiz, see all your quizzes and have reports. Creating quizzes is really easy:

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  1. Name your quiz;
  2. Chose to share the quiz or not publicly;
  3. Add questions;
    1. Multiple choice;
    2. True/False;
    3. Short answer;
  4. Save and exit.

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In ‘Manage Quizzes’, you can also go and see all the quizzes that you have created. When you click on one of your quizzes, you can duplicate, edit, download or edit that quiz. I thought that the downloading option was interesting, because if your students do not have access to computers or mobile devices in class, you can print the quizzes and have your students do it. The format is really interesting.

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For ESL teachers, Socrative is a great tool. The EdShelf website explains that it  »engage the entire classroom with educational exercises and games while capturing student results in real-time. Interact with the data to further student understanding in the moment, and review the reports to prepare for future classes. » Moreover, the Common Sense Graphite Website points out the many advantages of Socrative. First, teachers immediately gauge student learning. Also, teachers can choose to let students see instantly whether their answer was correct, or they can provide an explanation in response to incorrect answers. Quizzes can be created in Microsoft Excel using a template or import quizzes shared by a colleague in Socrative. The quiz results can be consulted in an Excel spreadsheet, which can be downloaded or received via email. The Ed Tech Review Website talks more about the Exit Ticket, which is a great feature of Socrative. Teachers can use it to get the students’ response or feedback by asking questions and all the tickets are submitted online for teachers to consult. Furthermore, as the Free Technology for Teachers mentions it, Socrative can be used by students of all levels. Students at the elementary level can easily understand how Socrative works. Students and teachers can learn how to manage the tool without any major problems.

The faculty Focus Website brings out something that teachers have to think about when they let their students use their mobile devices in class:  »one challenge for anyone wishing to use Socrative and that is managing students’ use of their personal portable devices. » I think that it is important to explain to students how they should use their mobile devices in class.

ESL teachers can create quizzes about things that they have taught in class or on general knowledge questions for the space rate activity for example. It can motivate students to use other tools. I like the interaction between the students and the teacher. It can become a special activity that is done once a week, or as a review at the end of a chapter. There are many possibilities to integrate Socrative into our teaching.

Let me know in the comment section which is your favorite: Kahoot! or Socrative. In my opinion, I think that Socrative is better is some ways. I think it looks a little more professional for teachers.

Thanks for reading this week’s blog post and I will see you next week with the last blog article of the semester.

Storybird: Create Stories!

Welcome back! I am glad to see you are still with me on this adventure to discover new pedagogical tools to integrate technology into our teaching.

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In today’s blog post, we will learn more about Storybird (find the website here).

Storybird is a website where you can create stories. The Common Sense Graphite website mentions that kids act as authors, pairing their words with site-curated, licensed art, which I think is very accurate. There is a paid version and a free version, but the free version still allows you to do many things.

It is easy to get started on the website. First, you create an account. You can create an account as a teacher, a student, a professional writer or a professional artist. I created my account as a teacher and the second step was to create a classroom. In my Storybird classroom, I can invite students to the class, create assignments, and consult my students’ work. To add students to your class, you can either create a new account for them (no email needed) or give a code to students who already have an account to join my class.

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Here is how students create their stories:

  • They first look through the different collection of art;
  • They choose the art that goes with their story or that inspires them the most;
  • They have a blank page with all the pictures around the page;
  • They write their story and drag and drop the illustrations they want on their page;
  • They can save and publish their stories as well as invite collaborators (peers and/or teacher) to help them.

storybird Here are some pros and cons:

Pros:

  • Like the Common Sense Graphite website explains, there is a huge collection of curated art that provides kid-authors with distinct and inspiring illustrations;
  • Like the Tech Tutorials website argues, Storybird is an extremely engaging site that allows students to focus more on the content of their writing rather than drawing pictures (You can also find four different video tutorials on that website that will definitely help you use Storybird!);
  • That tool is great because it does not only allow students to create stories, but also to read other published stories;
  • Your students can buy copies of their work;
  • Like the Ed Tech for ESL website points out, there is a comments section where you can comment on your students’ work;
  • The EdLab website comments that all the pictures are high-quality, created by artists or professional children’s book illustrators.

Cons:

  • Students cannot upload their own illustrations;
  • To download the PDF version, you need the paid version.

That tool gives a lot of possibilities to ESL teachers. It is a great tool to promote writing and reading in the classroom. First of all, let’s talk more about the writing part of the tool. I think this tool is really motivational for students. They can see the final product of their work. I think they will put more effort into the writing process because they want a paper copy of their work at the end of the process and be proud of it. Moreover, students can be creative and write about things that interest them. They can use their imagination to invent any type of stories that they like. They can also share their work with the teacher, their parents, their classmates, anyone! Furthermore, teachers can give feedback to their students on what they wrote and improve their writing skills. As Randy Thomas, an Educational Technology Consultant, mentions it on his blog, the teacher can create an “assignment” for the students to complete.  He/she can “assign” a project of creating a book to a class and give a due date. It is an excellent writing exercise. Students can do the work in team, which becomes a good cooperative activity. When students write texts, they do not only practice their writing skills, but also their vocabulary. They will learn new words as well as their spelling. This tool can be adapted to all levels. The teacher can ask to advance students to write a longer story and to beginner students to write only a few sentences. Let’s move on to the reading part of that tool. Students can go and read other stories that have been published on the website. They can see other people’s work. They can find stories that interest them. There are a lot of stories about many different things. Students will find something that they like for sure. It changes the routine from of the usual reading period that they do. It is different than reading the same paper book that the library has. Students can share the books that they liked to read with their classmates. They can also do a report or a critic of those stories.

I think that Storybird can be used in the classroom in many different ways and to any levels. Teachers have to be creative and give their students a love for writing. Literacy skills like writing and reading are important competencies in the curriculum that students need to develop and be evaluated on. You can watch a video here that explains the many ways that Storybird has improved the literacy skills of the students.

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Thanks for reading this week’s blog post! See you next week with another one!

Let’s be creative: PowToon

Hello all! Hope you are all doing well!

Today’s blog post will be about PowToon (find it here).

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As part of my Computer Application class, I had to create three types of videos. Our teacher proposed that for one of them, we use PowToon. I had never heard of that website before. It was completely new to me.

I created an account on the website and started playing with the different functions available. I was really impressed. There is a free version and a premium version, which you have to pay for every month. The free version, the one I use, offers a lot of choice. There are many different text effects, image holders, animated characters, props, markers, action buttons, shapes, transitions and backgrounds.

As the PowToon website mentions it, that website “creates animated videos and presentations as easy as PowerPoint!” After playing around with the tool for 10 minutes, I felt totally comfortable creating a video. It is really intuitive and similar to any other types of video creating tool.

Cathy More’s blog explains many pros of PowToon. Here are the pros that I agree the most with:

  • It’s intuitive
  • Non-artists (like me) can easily create cartoons
  • There’s a decent supply of images

The ESL Quebec blog argues that PowToon is easier to use than Prezi and more attractive than PowerPoint and I agree with that point. Also, the Bright Carbon website mentions that the two most complicated functions of PowerPoint (animation and timing) are simplified on PowToon.

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Teachers and students can create videos for different reasons. The concept of flipped classroom is starting to get more and more popular and it is a good way to create materials for students. For those of you who do not know what flipped classrooms are, they are classrooms where the students learn the new concepts and instructions at home with videos and the classroom time is used to do activities and answer the students’ questions. Students do not have homework at home anymore. They watch videos at their own rhythm; they can rewind or completely start again if they did not understand. The teacher has more time to focus on the students’ questions and on the practice of the concepts. You can read more about flipped classroom here.

As for the students, PowToon is a fun way for them to present their assignments. They can be creative and try something new. The Web App Review website gives many examples of how the tool can be used by the students. Here are all of them:

  • “Act out a section of a story they are reading, or an alternate way the story could have gone.
  • Reenact a historical event, or make a pretend meeting and conversation between famous people in history.
  • Make a short comic to explain a vocabulary word from class or a concept been covered in their current unit.
  • It can simply be used as a fun and easy alternative to PowerPoint, Google Slides, and other multimedia slide show programs for any sort of presentations your students need to make.”

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As an ESL teacher, I think that PowToon is a great tool to integrate to our teaching. Teachers can present grammar points or many other things in a creative and fun way using this tool. It presents the concepts differently and that is a good way to motivate students. It is also a good way to illustrate things for more visual students. I think that it is also a way to give students tools that they can refer back to. Students can always go back a watch the videos again if they do not remember something or did not understand something. Moreover, students can create their own videos. They can develop their skills on the different pedagogical tools that offer the Internet. Furthermore, I think that being able to synthetize concepts and explain them through a video like PowToon really shows the understanding of the students. They can also cooperate by sharing what they created and help each other understand the notions.

Here is a video of the high school I went to. This year, they created their ad using PowToon.

You can find many tutorials on YouTube on how to use PowToon if you happen to have any difficulties.

Have a great week! Thanks for reading!

Fun Quizzes in Class: Kahoot!

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Welcome to this week’s blog post! Today, I wanted to discuss about Kahoot!.

The Kahoot! team describes the tool as a game-based classroom response system.

Like all the other tools that I presented on that blog, Kahoot! is a really simple tool to use and it is free. It is a website where you can create quizzes, discussions and surveys. The first step is to create an account on the Kahoot! website (you can find it here). You can create an account as a teacher, a student, someone in business or someone who wants to use it socially. You need a username and an email and that is it, your account is created!

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To create the quizzes it is also really simple. You can have as many questions as you want, add pictures and make it really fun for your students.

To use the tool in your class, you can have your students either download the app (find it here here for Android) or go on the website (find it here). If you click on Play now, you will have to enter a pin number. It will be displayed on the main screen where the quiz questions will be. Your students have to enter that pin, a username and they can play or ‘work’ I should say…

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The students can see on the projector the questions and the multiple choice answers. Each answer is on a different color with a geometric form. Then the students have to press the color with the form of the answer they want to choose on their mobile device or computer.

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This is a great interactive tool for teachers. After each question, you can see the students who have the most points. Students accumulate points by answering the right answer and by doing so as fast as they can. It is really motivating for students to get more points and to appear on the main board. Students get really competitive and they want to get the right answers.

Common sense Graphite website summarized it really well: With a huge fun-factor, total ease-of-use, and adaptability for most ages and content, it’s a winning option for quick assessments.

I think that teachers can use Kahoot! to ask quick questions to get feedback or opinion on a subject or they can ask harder questions for more formative evaluations. Moreover, students can create their own quizzes, which can be an excellent revising tool that students can share with their classmates.

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Here are some of the positive points that Ed Tech Review mentions on his website.

  • It is learner centered: students can ask questions back
  • You can play on any devices: tablet, phone, and computers

You can add the little music that Kahoot! has and really create a fun interactive activity for your students.

ESL teachers can use it to have some interactions with their students and also incorporate technologies in their classes. They can easily create quizzes that are related to the material they study at the moment. I am sure students get really excited to play this kind of game. It can also be general knowledge quizzes, but in English. Any types of quizzes in the language are interesting for the students. It makes them more involved in the class and it is different than just a normal quiz with the teacher at the front of the class or worse, with paper and pencil. When students are involved in their learning, the activities are more significant to the students and they remember more the material learned. It is a fun competition. I really think that a normal everyday lesson can transform into a very fun and motivating lesson.

I found an article on Pinterest on the page of Ian Dickinson about the Kahoot! pedagogy and it is really interesting. It is mentioned that Kahoot! is a loop from learners to leaders. The author focuses on the fact that the Kahoot! pedagogy creates a cycle which encourages both independent or collaborative research and creation. It is explained that the students learn more when they can see the correct answers, but also the incorrect answers among the multiple choice answers. Here is the loop:

  •  »Teachers introduced a topic, they play their own Kahoot! quiz with their class to assess their understanding
  • Teachers then ask their learners to create their own quizzes on specific topics
  • Learners research, build up knowledge and gather relevant content
  • They then create their quizzes based on this content
  • And are then empowered to become leaders as they play their quiz back to classmates
  • Teachers can assess their understanding based on the quality of their content (including the wrong answers!) »

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I think Kahoot! is really a tool that is worth spending some time on to discover the many positive things that can be added to your teaching.

Thanks for reading this week’s blog post! I will see you next week with another one!

ClassDojo : A Classroom Management Tool

Welcome back!

As I mentioned in last week’s post, today I want to review Class Dojo.

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I had never heard of Class Dojo before three weeks ago. During my practicum, at lunchtime, the regular English teacher of the school mentioned working on her iPad with Class Dojo. I was curious and have done some research about that tool. I was amazingly surprised! It is a really good tool for any types of teacher. It is free, which is always a good thing in our domain.

Class Dojo consists of a tool that helps you with classroom management. You can access it via the website, the app on your iPhone or iPad. You can also switch from one mobile device to another one. It is really easy to use.

The first thing you have to do is create an account. You can create an account as a teacher, a student or a parent. In our case, we will create an account as a teacher. You can choose the name you want your class to have, the grade and the subject. From that point, you virtual class is created and you can start adding students. You can either copy a list of all your students or type in all their names. All of your students will appear with a little monster icon. As we said earlier, Class Dojo is a tool for classroom management. The aim is to give points to your students that have good behaviours and take away points for students with bad behaviours. Class Dojo offers you some choices of positive and negative behaviours, but you can easily add your own according to your type of students. You can also change the little icon that represents that behaviour. The concept is really simple; you reward students that have good behaviour in class, such as good participation, helping others, working hard and teamwork and punished students with negative behaviours, such as bullying, disrespect, off task and unprepared, for example. You click on the student and then chose the behaviour. For a positive behaviour, the student will have a little green circle above his name and red ones for negative behaviour. From that point, you can choose what you want to see. You can have the points cumulated or separated (you can see both the positive and the negative points). You can also record your attendance. You can put a student late or absent. When you put a student absent, you cannot click on his name anymore to give him points, which is useful. You can also get the statistics of your students; how they have done that day or that week or for a more specific period of time.

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One thing that I like is that parents can see how their child is doing at school during the day. The parents can easily see their child’s behaviour. Also, parents and teachers can easily communicate through that tool.

I have read on some websites that the teacher display Class Dojo on a Smart Board and show all the students’ points. I have to say that I do not agree with that method and so does a teacher in Natasha Singer’s article in The New York Times. As much as I like that tool, I would keep it confidential. The students can go and see their points during the break or after class. I think that it has a really negative impact on children if you show their points. It is really humiliating to see the teacher taking away points in front of the whole class. Kids judge a lot their peers. The Together Group website also mentions something important: it can create a lot of competition between the students. The tool can be motivating for the students, but negative competition may lead to worse behaviours.

I think that it is a great tool for ESL teachers because most of them have many classes and do not see their classes every day. The tool allows teachers to have many classes, which is useful for ESL teachers. The teacher can switch from class to class and have all their students well organized in groups. It is also harder for them to have a system where they can give privileges or punishments to students. Class Dojo allows ELS teachers to keep track of their students’ behaviour. It is also hard to always give feedback to the main teacher directly after class or during the week. That way, the two teachers can see the points of the students and know how they can help him/her have better behaviour.

The Guardian website gives other examples on how we can use that tool. For example, some schools use it when students are wearing the correct uniform. It does not only have to do with in class behaviours. They also discuss with the students as to what are the good behaviours that are worth points and those that can make them lose points. I think that discussing it with your students makes them even more responsible of their actions.

I think that Class Dojo is a great tool. As the Graphite blog mentions, the interface is attractive to children with bright colors, fun avatars and associated sounds for earning and losing points. It is fun for students and motivating. They want to have points; they do no want to lose them.

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You can access the website by clicking here;

You can access the app here;

And for Android here.

Here is a good video that explains well all the different features of Class Dojo:

Last week, I attended the Speak on Campus conference at Laval University. The lecturers showed us many new tools that I really want to explore more. You can expect in the next week to hear about Kahoot, Socrative and ClassCraft.

Thanks for reading this week’s blog post.

I will see you next week!

Using Google Doc in ESL Classrooms

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Welcome back to my blog!

In this week’s blog post, I wanted to talk about another great tool: Google Doc.

Google Drive is a large tool that can do a lot of things!!! You can create Google Doc, Google Sheets, Google Slides, Google Forms, Google Drawing and Google Maps. PC Magazine summarized Google Drive functions like so: the most impressive services for creating, editing, saving, syncing, and collaborating on documents. For today’s blog post topic, I want to focus on Google Doc.android-google-drive-google-goggles-image-0

In some of my university classes, I had to learn to use Google Doc, which is really easy. All you need is a gmail account and knowledge about Microsoft Word. I did not really use it before, but I wish I had! I think that it is a tool that can be used for many purposes in an ESL classroom or for any academic purposes. I will talk about the different ways that I have experimented Google Doc has a student as well as some ways that I think can be interesting for teachers.

The main point that I like about Google Doc for ESL classrooms is the cooperative touch you can add to any projects. The word ‘cooperative’ is really important. Everyone (the students, the teacher and the peers) can contribute to the task.

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First of all, Good Doc is a great tool for teamwork. This is mainly what I use it for. You can create a document and share it with your partners. Each member of the team has access to the document and can edit it from anywhere. Partners do not have to meet at one place to do a project. They can just all add their part of the work on the main document and see what the others have done. Teammates can also add comments on parts or sentences they do not agree on or things they want to discuss. It is also possible to add the teacher to the document. The teacher can give feedbacks and comments about the text. I think that this tool is incredible for teachers. As an ESL teacher, you can use it for many different purposes. For example, students can do a writing project in teams, students can also do peer review, the class can do a big brainstorm all together about the subject of the next debate. If teachers want to have the document posted somewhere else, students can export it in many standard file formats and hand it in to the teacher (.doc, .rtf, .pdf, and so on).

Richard Byrne explains on his blog, Free Technology for Teachers, how he uses Google Doc and I though it was really interesting. He hosts discussions on a Google Doc. He posts a text and adds reflection questions at the end. Students can write their opinions and respond to other students’ comments. I think that it is a really good writing exercise.

Share documents

It is also possible for teachers to share documents, but not give the students any editing functions. The teacher can post a document for students to consult only. The teacher that has a class in a computer lab can give access to the document to students and they can all easily follow the teacher.

Teachers can also create a document where they can post grades. To keep everything confidential, the teacher can use the students’ ID number instead of their names. Once again, the teacher can only activate the viewing option. That way, the teacher can have one document with all the grades that students can consult at any moment and always see the updated version of the document without always having to upload a new version.

To read about more ways to use Google Doc in the classroom, you can click here.

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Easy access

It is also a great tool because you have access to your documents everywhere you go. There is also an app for mobile devices that allows you to work on your documents from many places. In my first blog post, I talked about the positive sides to have a website or an educational content management system for ESL classrooms. Google Doc is a good one that is free and easy to use.

Any negative points?

PC Magazine brought up one negative point that I had not thought about: “it’s a Google product, and by the transitive property of privacy fears, many suspect their data will not be kept safe and secret.” I do not think that it should stop teachers using Google Doc. Google has, according to the DMR website, 425 million users. I think that it is a safe tool to use for small-scale purposes.unnamed

– You can download the Google Docs app here.

– For Android here.

– To consult the website click here.

Thanks for reading this week’s blog post.

I have many great topics coming up in the next following weeks, such as Class Dojo.

I will see you next week!

DuoLingo, an Amazing App for Teachers

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Welcome to this week’s blog post. This week, we will talk about the DuoLingo app.

This app was the 2013 iPhone app of the year. I personally discovered that app for my own language learning. I had just got back from a Spanish immersion in Spain and I wanted to keep practicing what I had learned. I still use the app and I really enjoy it.

For those of you who have never heard of DuoLingo, it is language-learning service. For example, if you speak English, you can learn Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Dutch, Irish, Danish, Swedish, Turkish, Hungarian, Esperanto, Ukrainian, Russian, Romanian and finally, Polish (that is a lot of languages to learn!!!). However, for a French speaker there is not as much choice: English, Spanish and Italian. According to The Independent, a British newspaper, each day 100,000 new users start using DuoLingo.

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To start using the app, you can create a free account. You can also sign in via Facebook or Twitter. Once you are in, you can choose which language you want to learn. You can also choose to do a placement test that allows you to skip the first beginner levels. The app is really easy to use, colourful and fun. Each level has a topic (food, animal, present, pronouns, etc.) and has more or less 3 lessons. With this app, you can improve your reading, writing, listening and speaking skills. The level of difficulty increases gradually after each exercise. It starts with basic knowledge, different vocabulary topics and goes on into verb tenses and harder concepts. The exercises consist of multiple-choice questions, listen-and-write exercises, translation exercises and spoken exercises. One important thing in learning a new language is repetition, and on DuoLingo, you can go back and do old exercises as many times as you wish. The app does not really explain grammar, it will focus more on associating a picture with a new word to help you remember it. One of the creator of DuoLingo, Luis von Ahn, mentioned to The Independent that at the end of the learning process, learners are a B2 level, which correspond to an upper intermediate level. On your DuoLingo account, you have access to the list of vocabulary that you have learned. Throughout the game, you also collect lingos, which you can use to buy different power-ups, outfits for the little owl and bonus skills. Also, the PC Magazine emphasizes a lot the DuoLingo app intelligent crowd-sourcing. Users of the app can translate texts as practice for them. You can translate directly from a language to another or do proofreading of other users’ work. Some translations are actually published on the Internet. I think that this is real knowledge sharing on the Internet, even though DuoLingo is making a lot of money out of it. However, this is probably why the app is still free.

The Fluent in three months blog has done a review of DuoLingo and has summarized it this way:

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This app is not only interesting for the general public who wants to learn another language for traveling or working purposes, but also for teachers and their students. The DuoLingo app has made it easier for teachers to follow their students’ progress. Students with mobile devices can download the app and the others can go directly on the website. Everyone has access to it. DuoLingo is a great app for teachers. It it a really good interactive tool that allows students to practice and learn new vocabulary. It might motivate some curious students to start learning another language and hard worker students might want to push their learning further than what is asked by the teacher. It can help teachers keep tract of the students’ difficulties and work. Parents can also look at their child’s progress. Finally, it is free. For schools with a tight budget, it is a good tool. Students can set themselves daily goals and compete with their friends. They can invite them through Facebook or email.

DuoLingo has also another project: DuoLingo Test Center. They created an English proficiency test. The Tech Crunch website explains it more in detail. The DuoLingo team wants to compete with other well known tests, such as the TOEFL. Their test can be done at home, which makes you save a lot of money. You do not have to drive many hours to get somewhere where they administer the test, you can actually do it at home. The camera and microphone of your computer or iPhone record everything you do. A DuoLingo proctor then watches the video to make sure that the person did not cheat.

You can learn more about DuoLingo in this TED Talk:

Thank you for reading this post.

I will see you next week with another one.

Integration of a Website or an Educational Content Management System into Teaching Practices

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In today’s blog post, I will discuss the integration of a website or an educational content management system into teaching practices. I will analyze the different points of view and try to give the advantages and disadvantages as an ESL student teacher.

First of all, children nowadays are so connected with technology that using it in their learning environment could help some of them get more motivated in school. A two-year old can easily use an iPad without anyone showing him how to use it. Students often have access to old books that schools do not have enough money to change because of budget issues, but teachers have access to incredible sources of content on different platforms and often for free. It can motivate students to do a little bit more effort and have more success in school. They would go on the Internet after school anyway, so why not make it profitable for them. I think that teachers have the responsibility to show their students all the great things on the Internet that can help them learn. We need to teach them to use those tools in a positive and educational way. They have to be able to use technology since it is such a big part of today’s way of functioning in society.

As an ESL student teacher, I think that integrating technologies into the teaching practices is a positive thing for students and for their parents. It is a good way to connect with them outside of the school environment. The Edutopia website mentioned an important point: students know how to use technology, but they do not necessarily know how to use it in a learning purpose. So many great tools exist (Edmodo, First Class, Moodle, Schoology, etc.). As a student, I experienced Colnet when I was in Cégep and I am now using ENA at Laval University. The high school I went to is now using Pluriportail.

Those are all good educational content management systems. The school administration has to carefully choose the one they want to use. They have to think about different things. The Marqui blog has resumed it well, they focus more on higher education, but I think it can apply to any schools in general:

They all have their advantages and disadvantages, but the analysis of these may occur in another blog post. (You can let me know in the comment section if you want me to talk about those.)

I think that it makes the communication between the parents, the student and the teacher so much easier. When something is wrong, the parents can contact the teacher or vice versa. The problems can be solved in a day. Students can ask questions and get an answer within a short period of time. Many parents of students are separated and might live in different cities, it is a good way for them to continue to follow their child’s progress through the school website. Parents can consult their children’s grades, report card, etc. Parents also feel like they can participate more in their child’s academic progress by being able to know all their evaluation dates and special activities, because everything can be posted on a portal where parents can easily consult all that information. Students can have access to their documents everywhere they go and they can go back to the documents they consulted two months ago for revision. The Education World website emphasizes that it is important that students use their technology tools on a daily basis and not only during computer class for example. It creates a routine that is good for children. The Edutopia website also adds that technology helps students become more engaged in their studies.

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Doing homework could actually become a fun moment in their day instead of a demotivating task students have to do every night. As an ESL teacher, I could put up on my website different English YouTube videos that my students have to go watch or TED talks or readings. There are so many possibilities. I can ask my students to hand in their homework that way and easily give them feedback. It saves a lot of paper (we have to think about the planet!). I can post revision quizzes or links to websites with interactive activities. Some educational content management systems have forums (or something comparable) where students can share knowledge or ask/respond to other students. I think that forums are great tools because it creates a real community of students helping each other and what a better way to really understand something than try to explain it to a peer.

However, I think that integrating technology is also a lot of work for teachers that decide to create their own website on the Internet. I spoke about that with my cooperating teacher in my practicum. She has a website where the students can get their homework for the week, planner, different activities, videos, etc. The main point that she mentioned is that it takes a lot of time to build. You have to build it from nothing and learn how to do it if it is the first time. Because the parents and students will consult it, it has to be professional looking and contain all the material. It is a commitment that you do with your students to post new things and always be up to date on the website. She added that once the website is done and that you have been operating it for a few years, it gets a lot easier (your banners and everything is already done). Teachers have to put effort to learn to use those tools.

Technology is still hard to get in some schools because of funding problems. There are so many cuts in budget that buying new computers in a school is hard. Not all schools have access to SMART boards or projectors or any other resources. Teachers can still find great activities to do with limited resources.  Some schools make the parents buy the iPad or the laptop, but that is not something that all schools can ask the parents because of the socioeconomic status of the families frequenting that school. I think that a minority of students might not have access to the Internet or computers, but it is still possible for them to go to places like libraries to consult the school website.

I love the endless possibilities that offer technologies. I think that when those tools are well used, they can push education further than we think. Students are excited to use those resources. Teachers have to get on the boat and go with the flow. It might be a little more work for them, but when it shows results it is all worth it.

See you next week with another blog post!

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