Tuesday, November 23, 2010

All good things must come to an end...

We've now come to the end of another semester (more or less) and so I would like to share a few reflections on this semester's course in New Technologies and Language Teaching.

One of the highlights for me has been the way that the teachers taking this course have picked up the practical skills of designing websites (we used Google sites) and regularly writing posts to their blogs (linked under 'Student blogs' from this site). With most of the websites that were created, it was pretty clear that they could be used in an authentic teaching context, either to support a particular class, or a particular English language teaching textbook. We have also had some interesting discussions as teachers have tried out their websites in real teaching contexts, and I think I have learned from their experiences (one example being Teresa's recent posts about using her website in her school - here and here).

I always enjoy the discussions that we have have in the blogs for this course, and this semester has been no exception. It has been really pleasing to see people interacting with one another in the blogs to share ideas, provide feedback and learn from one another. It was also good to see teachers using the blogs as a way to record the main points in a particular lesson - for example this post by Sonia where she 'live-blogs' some of the lesson content.

Now that the course is basically over, I wonder if there are ways for this group of teachers to stay in touch, and to continue the kind of support that they have given each other over the past 13 weeks. One way, perhaps, is to keep using these blogs as a place to share the resources we find and the (technological) teaching experiences we have... Any other suggestions?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Finding and evaluating educational technology tools

These days, it seems as though there is a new web 2.0 tool out every day, and on top of that, all of them seem to have some kind of educational application. If you are interested in using technology for teaching and learning, then it is important to develop ways of finding and evaluating useful technological tools. Luckily, teachers are developing very rich networks to help each other stay informed, for example through email lists, blogs, wikis and Twitter. In this blog post I would like to share the sources that I use in an effort to keep up to date. I'd encourage you to check out these sources yourselves, and let me know about good sources that you use yourself. Note that this isn't intended to be some kind of exhaustive list, it just reflects my own practice which I hope you might find useful as a starting point.

Email lists and newsletters
I am on a few email lists relating to educational technology, or language learning and technology (but I have cut back a bit). You might find these helpful:

When I get time, I read these blogs:

Others that I would recommend, especially for ideas about technology in language teaching:

If you have a look at the blogroll on these blogs, you can also find a lot of interesting, related material.

Wikis are great at bringing people together to pool resources. Here are a few that I have stumbled across at various points:

This is actually the best source for me, because it's a place where educators share up-to-the-minute information. I follow a lot of the bloggers that I read, and find their updates very helpful. Check out:

As well as the posts to Twitter, I have been very impressed with paper.li, where (among other things) you can get a daily digest of useful #edtech posts or #edchat posts.

Of course, staying up-to-date is only part of the problem. The real challenge comes in figuring out how the tools and strategies that you read about can be applied to your own teaching. Often that involves a rather time-consuming process of exploration and reflection, particularly when it comes to answering the question: 'How can these technological tools promote the kind of language learning that I expect my students to be engaged in?'

Monday, November 8, 2010

Using blogger to share a podcast

Last week we looked at how you and your students could create a podcast using the free online audio editing tool, Audacity. This week we'll look at how to share that audio.

Here is a suggested method:
  1. Enable enclosures in your blog (Dashboard > Settings > Formatting > Show link fields > 'Yes'
  2. Upload your mp3 file to a file sharing service (e.g. Dropbox or Box.net)
  3. Find and copy the link to your file
  4. Create a new post in your blog
  5. Underneath the title select 'Add enclosure link' and paste in the url for the file
  6. Embed a player in your post as well (see below)
Most of these steps are summed up in the Blogger help video below:

The video covers steps 1-5 above, but does not show you how to embed a player in your blogpost. One way of doing that is described at the Unofficial Google Operating System blog.

If you copy the code provided in this post, and replace [MP3_file] with the url of your mp3 file, then a flash player will appear in your post, allowing your readers to listen to the audio from within your post, as well as using iTunes or other RSS readers. The player will look like this (image only):

From what I understand, the player can only play mp3 files, which is a bit limiting. Obviously, this is just one way of going about sharing a podcast, if you have other suggestions please let me know by leaving a comment.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Digital storytelling in the Digital Youth Project

We have just been discussing digital video and digital storytelling in our last class. In the class, I described experiences with one project which utilizes digital video in the tertiary context, and I have just come across this video, describing the Digital Youth Project, which uses digital storytelling in the secondary school context. I thought you might like to take a look and leave your comments.

As an afterthought, if you found that video useful, and would like to have more like it sent to your email inbox, you can sign up for the free e-newsletter at Edutopia, a source of a lot of good material for educational technology.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Events in Second Life

One of these days I really should take the plunge and attend one of these conferences in Second Life. I've just come across this summary of the recent SLanguages conference, 15-16 October.

The summary is interesting for the range of different events and activities that were hosted, and there are plenty of pictures and videos that give an idea of the potential for SL to bring together geographically disparate individuals around a common idea. Among the events at the conference were 2 theatre plays, one of which you can see recorded here (skip to about 47s for the beginning of the intro).

When you first come across Second Life, it is not immediately obvious what to do, or how you can use it in language teaching. If you're interested in SL and education, then I think the best way to learn more is to join one of the educational groups in SL, and learn from the residents.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Class blogs and class websites

Blogs are very flexible platforms that can be used in a range of ways to support learning in general, and language learning in particular. Take a look at these blogs to get some idea of their potential (not all of these are currently active):
You might also like to check out the discussion of class blogs on Tom Barret's blog, or on Twitter (#classblogs).

As Ducate and Lomicka point out (articles here and here, but require library sign-in), reading blogs can be an important first step towards writing blogs. If you want to take their advice and spend some time locating appropriate blogs, then you (or your students) could make use of Google blog search or Technorati.

As we'll see, personalizing a blog can be a lot of fun, but you need to be wary of privacy concerns, and some people are reluctant to post a profile image to a public website. One obvious solution is to ask students to post a picture which has some personal significance for them, like a favourite place or animal. Another solution (which can be quite fun) is to have students create an avatar, using a tool like this one. You might also need some photo-cropping tool like Photoshop, or an online tool like this one.

When it comes to designing a class website, one possible platform is Google sites. Before you leap in, it's a good idea to think about the affordances that Google sites offers, and how you might use a class website to support language learning outcomes. You can get an initial idea by taking a look at a couple of Google sites templates for teachers, here and here, and reflecting on whether this kind of content would be useful in your context. The next step is to come up with a design that is tailored to your particular teaching and learning context.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Back to school

Well the campus is once again buzzing with life, as students and teachers alike return to the classroom and hit the books. It's good to be back, and I'm looking forward to exploring how we can best put new technologies to use in the service of language education.

With that in mind, I recently came across this back to school guide on using new media in education (by Edutopia), and thought I would share the link so that you can download it and see what you think of the ideas. The guide is full of up-to-date resources, websites and web tools that you can use with your students, and there are also suggestions about how you might use them. To download the guide you just need to provide your name and email address, and there is also an option to sign up for updates from Edutopia, which I highly recommend. Edutopia is a very rich site which has a lot of good content and provides a useful forum for educators who are interested in using technology in their classes.

[Flickr image by kyz]