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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Filtering by Tag: Articles for Language Teachers

A Crazy Idea, All in One Lesson, & Blogged Directly from Class

As I type this, my Year 8 French students are working intensely on making comic strips by taking pictures within our virtual 3D world, which we call "Booralie Island". Now they're making comic strips. I'll paste the comics in amongst this text that I am typing.

COMIC 1, by Sarita, Danielle, and Rebekah






We're going to post the comics at http://nbcsfrench.wikispaces.com which is our website dedicated to publishing resources created by students. We categorise those resources by chapter and textbook, so any teacher or student who is using the same textbook can find resources that match exactly what they're looking at at the moment.


COMIC 2, by Connor, Joel and Ethan









I'd like to think that teachers who would otherwise use the textbook, might direct their students to check out our own special comics. I'd like to think that students will find it interesting to see the work produced by their peers in other places - perhaps it will give them a sense of connection with other French students. Also, it's a heck of a lot of fun. The fact I can find 3 minutes to type this shows they are intensely 'into' the activity. I can hear, right now, students discussing their camera angles for the comic shots! Students are asking for virtual money to buy virtual clothing in the virtual clothing shop to wear for the shots!


Comic 3, by Lee, Daniel D and Daniel MB










It's the sort of activity where, if you're not careful, the students will spend hours and hours getting distracted. I've been very careful to get them moving - keep the comics simple, but let's get them done here and now and have them posted by the end of the lesson. It's now 10 minutes after the end of the lesson, and I am about to publish this blog post and the comics below. This is crucial - I can't sustain uses of technology that take hours of my time. 10 minutes, I can handle!

AHHH We didn't all finish! Out of 6 groups of students, 3 groups finished on time - not a bad start considering I had to teach them how to position the camera in the virtual world, how to take screen shots, add speech bubbles, resize pictures etc. The frenetic pace to the class worked well because the students worked efficiently.

Next time we'll aim higher!

If you have 20 seconds, leave a quick comment and say which city/country you’re from – I’ll show the comments to the students. (I showed them the comments on the lolcatz blog post – you just can’t beat the effect it has on our class perspective!)

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.

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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!