Happy Steve

Innovation and Learning

Start with clarity of intent.

Now build it out with an evocative vision. Improvise progress by tinkering: with lots of trial and lots of error. The not knowing is the best bit: the mysteries the surprises, and from time to time the windfalls! 

Hello there, I'm Steve Collis! 

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Finally, A Phone Blogging Service to Replace Utterli?

I've been busting to post about this for a few weeks. I was so annoyed when Utterli cut their services, because I had seen how easy it is to get students to use their phones for learning.

A company called 'Learnosity' has a fully functional voice learning system that requires only a telephone for students to use.

First, the teacher logs in at a computer and records some audio questions into a website (no software required, the audio goes straight into the website).

For languages, this could be a question the students need to answer in the target language, but I can envisage History or English teachers elliciting student responses on a range of topics. Students could be asked to defend a perspective, with evidence, or define their opinions, or deliver a persuasive speech.

Then students simply ring a local telephone number and listen to the teacher and then record their responses. They can re-record if they want to. The teacher can set the service to ask a particular set of questions.

When the teacher goes to the website, they see an interface like this:

For question 1, the teacher can see all the student responses running down the page.

The teacher can leave some text feedback for the student (which they can get by logging in).

They can assign a mark to each question (useful for official assessment tasks).

They can nominate certain responses as 'sample' responses - these ones are tagged as ideal responses and can be listened to by the other students.

I'll use this service systematically next term, getting all my students to ring up once a week and answer a whole bunch of questions. I'll identify some 'sample' answers - some excellent answers that the others can then log in and listen to.

Notice there is an RSS and an iTunes symbol on the page? Students and staff can subscribe over iTunes to the teacher recordings and student responses! I've been experimenting to see if I can then embed the iTunes feed into another website. Basically, yes I can, I just need to figure out how to do it more elegantly. Those of you looking for a viable alternative to Utterli, the mobile phone blogging system who have annoyingly cancelled their local phone numbers, will realise this system has potential to let students run mobile phone blogs, that can even be subscribed to.

This system meets my requirements of being:
1. Efficient (easy, low time input, and much easier than managing computer headsets)
2. High impact - because students need more speaking training. This is a real axe I wish to grind. I don't think most teachers to oral literacy well. And yet arguably the students' ability to express themselves, to persuade, to present themselves in a certain light, will have a life-long impact on their opportunities. Everything from finding a partner to finding a job is affected by speaking confidence.

Steve Collis' Cat

Yet, often, teachers neglect speaking skills, except for a fob-off class speech once a year, where the students panic and get emotionally scarred!

This system offers regular speaking scaffold to truly impact student speaking confidence. 

Want to give it a try?

This service is essentially a 'start-up' service, i.e. it works fine but the company are looking to build a userbase. My contact, Mr Mark Lynch, is happy for other teachers to use it on a demonstration basis. There is no pricing schedule available yet. I'm impressed enough to be happy to fork out some cash to make this a standard component of my French classes. My students always need more speaking practice.

If you want a demonstration account, email Mark Lynch from Learnosity - marklynch (AT) gmail.com

I'll keep you posted as I use the system over the coming term!