Category Archives: Tools

4 Reasons why teaching students to use technology in the classroom is a no-brainer

Few things divide the opinions of teachers more than the use of technology in the classroom but with more than 20 years of the internet I thought we would have moved on from “Whether?” to “How?” It seems though that I’m mistaken, as France moves to ban mobile devices from their children’s classrooms I’m once again appalled that our education systems can be so out of touch with our students’ day-to-day realities.

Both sides in this debate regularly site research or the lack of it to enforce their arguments that technology should or shouldn’t be used, but much of this research is either very small scale and carried out within a very limited context or looks at how technology can be overlaid onto an antiquated approach to transmission teaching that itself has no foundation in research and was only used in the absence of any other approach.

So, I feel like common sense should be our guide and here are four reasons why teaching students how to use technology should be a no-brainer.

Developing writing skills

With the vast majority of written discourse being created on digital devices it would seem only natural that we look to digital tools to assist in both the production of a wide range of text based genre and also in the teaching of the sub-skills of writing.

writingIn addition to this the move to digital text production has enabled the creation of a number of tools that can assist students in the production of better quality writing and supply them with feedback, guidance and suggestions for improving the quality of their output. Many of these kinds of tools don’t exist in the analogue world of paper-based production, so it is imperative that we as teachers help to educate our students to enable them to get the best from these tools and resources.

Another significant change that digital text production has ushered in is the ability to produce text collaboratively, both asynchronously and synchronously. The skills involved in working collaboratively to produce and refine text are becoming increasingly important in todays modern workplace, so again this reinforces the importance of developing students writing skills within the digital realm.

Developing speaking skills

Digital connectivity has brought about a revolution in the way we use voice to communicate both with each other and with the digital devices that accompany us wherever we go. Face-to-face synchronous communication across continents has become a day-to-day experience for many people and the use of voice to control various aspects of our computers and indeed our homes is becoming normalised.

Speaking imageWith the falling cost, increased accessibility and use of voice communication tools across continents and cultures it seems only natural that we should be helping our students to access and make use of these tools effectively both inside and outside the classroom. These tools don’t just offer our students the opportunity for genuine language use but they also offer them the opportunity to record and reflect on their own abilities and take a more autonomous and self-aware approach to the development of speaking skills.

Developing reading skills

Despite the proliferation and popularity of video and audio on the internet, the vast majority of what is published and consumed online is still text. Reading from screens, websites and digital communication tools present students with some unique challenges that the more linear, homogeneously sealed environment of paper-based communication doesn’t. In contrast to the challenges of reading from screen, digital tools also offer a range of functionality to support the reading process and make it more engaging and enriching.

Reading skills imageIt can also be argued that we now consume text in a very different way on digital devices. We are much more likely to explore background information, take tangental journeys away from the original topic and read across multiple texts and genres during our searches and researches. Developing the skills necessary to read effectively in this new digital environment can only be done using the tools and devices that are native to that environment, so as teachers we need to ensure that we are using a range of digital texts and tools that help students to develop the skills they need to navigate this digital world with confidence.

Developing listening skills

Much like speaking, the digital communications revolution has expanded access to a huge variety of digital genres and with that a range of voices and accents that students would never experience in the analogue classroom.

Listening skills imageThese digital communication tools coupled with the proliferation of mobile devices offer students the opportunity to work more autonomously to develop their listening skills both inside and outside the classroom. Helping students to negotiate the huge range of available tools and use them in a way that enables them to develop their listening and communication skills more effectively should be among the top priorities of language teachers.

These four short texts come from my ebook – Digital Tools for Teachers – Trainers’ Edition.

Digital Tools for Teachers – Teacher Trainers’ Edition

Available as iBook
Available as PDF

8 YouTube Tools to Help Learn English

It always amazes me that despite being the world’s largest video library, YouTube is still blocked or banned in many educational institutions. As a resource for  learning about almost anything, but particularly for language learning it is an incredibly valuable tool and a tool that many third party companies have started to build on and exploit to make its use easier and more engaging.
 Below are just a few of the many tools that can help educators exploit the learning potential of YouTube with a particular focus on English language learning. I hope you can enjoy these tools and if you do work in an institution where YouTube is still blocked perhaps you can use this article to help persuade the people responsible that the benefits of making the resource available far outweigh the manageable risks that it can create.
1. VoiceTube – https://www.voicetube.com/
voicetubeThis is a self study tool for students that allows them to listen and study each individual sentence within a video. There are a number of study support features. The students can take and save notes about the vocabulary within the script. They can also listen and record themselves saying sentences from the script then compare to the original.
The LMS within the site tracks their activity and can show them which and how many videos they have watched and show their notes and history of translated words in their word bank. Some of the videos also have quizzes, but these only work in the Chrome browser. Their is also a free mobile app which is available for both Android and iOS, so students could work with this whenever they have a free moment.
2. YouGlish – http://youglish.com/
youglishThis is a great tool for developing pronunciation. Just search for any word or phrase and YouGlish will find an example in a YouTube video and take you directly to the part of the video where the phrase appears. You can then listen to the phrase in context and see the sentence that it appears in.
You can also save the phrase and clip if you register on the site and you can also grab a link to it or share it through social media.
3. TubeQuizard – http://tubequizard.com/
tubequizardThis is a great self-study tool. Students can select level, the area they want to study, the type of film and even the accent they want to learn. TubeQuizard will generate activities for them based around the subtitles. They can then listen, fill in gaps and check their answers. There is also a search engine so that you can type in a specific phrase and find a video that contains that text.
You can also create your own video quizzes. You can either search for a video using the search tool on the site or copy paste in the URL of the video you want to use. The only limitation here is that the video must have subtitles available.
4. CaptionGenerator – http://www.captiongenerator.com/
Caption_GeneratorThis is a really useful tool for exploiting clips that have no audible dialogue. Students can add captions to the clips and make up their own dialogue. This is really easy to do, they just add the URL to the video clip and then type in the captions,  and a great way to get students thinking about the link between language and context. You can find a selection of suitable videos here: Silent Videos
5. WatchKIN – https://watchkin.com/
WatchkinThis is a tool for removing advertising and distractions from around the YouTube clip. This is particularly useful if you are showing a clip in the classroom and you don’t want students to see some of the surrounding clips. Just paste in the link to the video you want to show and WatchKIN will produce a framed version of the clip. You can then generate a unique URL to the framed version and use that either in the classroom or when you link to videos in online or digital materials.
6. reEmbed – https://www.reembed.com/
reEmbedThis tool takes the concept of WatchKIN a step further and allows you to create your own customised video player with your own logo, colouring and choice of controls. This is useful if you are building video clips into an online course and you want them to look consistent and professional throughout the course. Once you have created your player you can then just use it to generate an embed code for each of the videos in your course.
7. PeggoTV – http://peggo.tv/
PeggoThis is a great tool if you want to download and edit a clip from YouTube. It gives you a number of options including trimming the video so you only see a selected part of the clip, removing the audio so the video is silent, removing the visual part so you have only the sound track or just downloading the entire clip to your hard drive (This can be reassuring if you are working in the classroom with an unreliable connection). Being able to create these different versions of the clip allows you a lot more flexibility with how you work with the clip in the classroom or how you create online tasks around the clip. See my manual – Digital Video – for suggestions.
8. YouTube Kids – https://kids.youtube.com/
KidsYouTubeThis is a great free app if you work on mobile devices with younger learners. It allows you to give your students free range to search through YouTube clips with the confidence to know that they won’t find anything inappropriate. There is also a parental guide to help you use the app and ensure your students safety.
I hope you find these tools useful. There are lots more as well as lots of video based activities, lesson plans and video tutorials in my award winning ebook – Digital Video – A Manual for Language Teachers.
By Nik Peachey

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10 Free Tools for Building Blended & Online Learning

As internet connections improve and costs of classroom hours increase, it’s becoming increasingly important to offer some form of blended or totally online materials to enhance courses.

In this posting I’ll introduce some useful free and freemium tools that can enable any teacher to start creating content for online delivery.

You can find more tools like these in Digital Tools for Teachers

1. Perusallhttps://perusall.com/

PerusallThis tool enables teachers to build onto more traditional course book based courses and add a blended element. Once you have created an account you can upload PDF documents and add them to courses. You then give your students a code to register on the course and they can access the texts, make notes and annotate the text and build discussions around them. The site also generates a ‘confusion report’  which can show you where they are struggling or having problems with the text. You can deal with the problems in the next class. When you register as a teacher you need to tell the site which school you teach at. You can try a live demo of a course to see how it works at: https://app.perusall.com/demo

2. NowCommenthttps://nowcomment.com/

NowCommentThis is a very similar tool to Perusall, but it’s completely free. and works around any web based text. You can create classes and groups and add students to them and then create and assign texts from the internet as reading activities. You then create questions and comments linked to specific parts of the text which your students engage with as they read. This enables you to create an online dialogue around the text and get your students sharing and exploring their views around the text.

3. Teachablehttps://teachable.com

TeachableYou can use Teachable to create and sell your own online courses. There isn’t much in the way of interactive exercise types available, but you can add videos text and allow comments. There is a built in payment system so this takes a lot of the headaches out of getting started. Teachable take 10% if you are working with a free account. If you find that you are selling a lot of courses you can switch to a paid account with a fixed fee to reduce the charges. This is a great way to start becoming an independent course designer.

4. CourseLabhttp://www.courselab.com/view_doc.html

CourseLabCourseLab has been around for a while now and is a free tool for authoring your own interactive digital content. You don’t need any coding skills, just use the drag and drop editor to create a wide range of multimedia interactive activities. This really is quite a powerful tool capable of designing a wide range of quite complex interactive activity types that include context specific feedback and a number of other features like scoring and timing, but there is quite a steep learning curve when you firs start using it. If you want to get serious about building complex online courses then it worth putting in the time. The activities it generates comply to the SCORM standard so you can import them into Moodle or any other standard compliant LMS.

5. DocentEduhttp://docentedu.com/

This is a great tool to start creating web based materials. You’ll need to have a Google account and   use it to sign up. Then you can use the Chrome extension to build interaction around webpages or documents. You can add videos from YouTube to enhance content or you can add discussion, questions or insights. You can make up to 5 activities for free, after that you have to sign up for an account, but it is reasonably cheap. There is also a schools option.

6. Edhttp://www.edapp.com/

Ed LMSEd is a really impressive course creation and LMS tool for creating highly interactive and touch responsive learning content for mobile devices. It has been designed to work on both iOS and Android devices and produces media rich learning activities. You can drop in video, images, text or audio and create a really wide range of interactions around them. Many of the activity types are ideal for developing communication skills. On the free trial account you can create up to 10 lessons. After that you have to pay per user per month, so this is a great tool to create commercial learning materials, but you have to make sure you will be generating some income.

7. Kotobeehttps://www.kotobee.com

KotobeeThis is a completely free authoring tool you can download to create interactive ebooks for delivery on either Android or iOS tablets. The tool goes beyond just creating a ebook, you can add quite a range of interactions to your books as well as video and audio files, so this is a great tool for creating a genuinely digital etextbook. As well as running on tablets the ebooks and activities you create can also be exported to the computer desktop or exported as native apps for Android or iOS (You’ll need to have Apple or Google developer accounts to do this.) This is a great tool for the truly digital classroom.

8. Close Test Creatorhttp://l.georges.online.fr/tools/cloze.html

Cloze Test CreatorThis is a very simple tool that enables you to instantly create cloze test activities based around any text. Just copy and paste a text from any site or document into the main field and click on submit. You can produce either plain text cloze tests or interactive ones. The site will also allow you to choose the types of words that are extracted from the text, so you can for example just remove articles or prepositions. When an interactive cloze has been created you can type in the missing words and the site will highlight the words in red if they are incorrect. The activities this tool creates can’t be saved, so there is no copyright infringement, but that also means that you can’t create and distribute the activities to multiple students. You can show students how to use the tool to create their own revision tests though, so it’s still very useful and works well on an interactive whiteboard.

9. Gnomiohttps://www.gnomio.com/

GnomioThis is a free hosting service that enables you to create your own free Moodle installation. Once you have created your platform you can build multiple classes and courses with a really wide range of interactions including a plugin for the http://bigbluebutton.org/ synchronous webinar platform. This is a great service that could enable you to create your own online school to deliver lessons or training. The free version of the site does carry some advertising, but for a small monthly or yearly payment you can get the ads removed.

10. Expertise.TVhttps://expertise.tv/

ExpertiseTVThis is a great tool if you want to start making money by training or mentoring online. It has everything you need to set up, sell and deliver a complete mentoring service including lead capture and a video conferencing and webinar platform. It’s also free, but if you do start selling courses or training sessions then the site keeps a small percentage of what you make. Unlike many webinar type platforms there’s no whiteboard or presentation space so it’s more like an enhanced version of Skype, but you can build you own landing page and develop a community on the site. There are lots of video tutorials to tell you more at: https://expertise.tv/content/Quick-Start-Videos

I hope you find one or two of these tools useful for creating your own courses or content. Remember though that finding the right tool is important, but how you structure and design interaction with the content is way more important. Taking classroom activities and materials and placing them on a web-based  platform and expecting them to work is sure way to disappoint students.

Check out my ebook

You need to think carefully about how the student will engage with the materials and how the materials relate to each other to ensure that your materials don’t just test the students’ knowledge and abilities, but that they guide and enable the student to hypothesise and make and confirm deductions in order to encourage deeper levels of autonomous learning.

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Tools for creating polls and surveys

Any internet search will show that there are a huge number of online tools available for the creation on polls and surveys. The ones included here are some of the best I have used and show some of the variety of polling tools available.

You can find more tools like these in Digital Tools for Teachers

SurveyMonkeyhttps://www.surveymonkey.com/

SurveyMonkeySurveyMonkey is a freemium product and one of the online survey tools that has been around for the longest. Using a free subscription you can produce surveys with up to 10 questions and collect up to 400 hundred responses. This is likely to be enough for the vast majority of student created surveys. It’s pretty easy to use, you just drag and drop the types of question you want to use and then edit the parameters to add the text for the questions and possible answer alternatives. It’s also very easy to export the data you collect from the surveys and analyse the answers. It does look a bit dated though compared to many of the newer survey tools and it doesn’t have very attractive design templates.

Google Formshttps://docs.google.com/forms

Google-formsIf you are a Google user Google Forms is a great and very simple to use free tool for creating surveys. You can choose a simple template or start from a blank one and choose from a reasonable selection of question types including text input. Google have also made it very simple to integrate video from YouTube and search for and add images. The surveys can be customised quite simply by adding background images and different designs and there doesn’t seem to be any limit to the number of response you can collect. Google Forms are also mobile adaptive so you don’t have to worry if you are working in classes where students use a range of different devices.

Typeformhttps://www.typeform.com/

This is a really powerful survey creator and one of the most user friendly ones I’ve tried. It works on a freemium model which limits the number of templates you can use on a free subscription, but if you are happy with limited design options that won’t be a problem. There is a really wide range of questions types to choose from and you can just drag and drop these onto your survey template. Typeform also offers good support for images and media, so if you want to add videos from YouTube or upload images Typeform would be a good option.

Triciderhttp://www.tricider.com/

TriciderThis is one of the survey tools I use most often and it’s a great tool for exploring the pros and cons around a particular problem and really pulling in ideas from the survey recipients. You simply add a single question or problem and then users can add ideas for solving the problem. They can also add the pros and cons of each idea and then vote for the ones they like the best. The data the survey produces can be hard to analyse, though the voting part is quite straight forward. It’s a great tool to use in class, because it’s very simple and quick to create the survey and students can exchange surveys easily and get instant results. To find out more about how to use Tricider read my article – Crowdsourcing Knowledge with Students.

AnswerGardenhttps://answergarden.ch/

AnswergardenThis is a great tool for very simple surveys that just require a simple text input. It’s great for brainstorming words related to [topic] or how do you feel about [topic]. The answers can also be exported to Wordle which creates a colourful word cloud of the answers showing the most popular options at larger sizes. WordleIt’s also a great tool for use in the classroom because the site automatically generates a QR code for each survey so students can quickly scan the survey onto their phones and answer immediately. To find out more about how to use AnswerGarden read my article – Brainstorming and polling with AnswerGarden.

I hope these survey tools are useful. Surveys play a very important role in the development of digital literacy and are an integral part of my 10 Lessons in Digital Literacy book.

You can also find variety of  tools like these in Digital Tools for Teachers

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Online Tools and Resources for Teaching Young Learners

This is the slidedeck from the workshop I delivered for the British Council ‘Technologies and Classrooms’ summer school for teachers in Lithuania in June 2016.

It focuses on a range of tools and resources that teachers can use to support the language development of their younger learners.

There is a strong focus on on technologies that enable students to be creative in their use of language.

I hope you find the slide-deck useful. The images are linked to the sites and examples so please do download it and follow up on some of the links.

Download my ebooks for teachers:

Best wishes

Nik Peachey

Q&A With Off2Class Co-Founder Kris Jagasia

Off2Class-logoIt’s rare to come across a resource online for English teachers which is unique and empowering, but Off2Class is that rare thing. Off2Class provides high quality content for teachers who want to work online or in the classroom with digital materials.

What’s your elevator pitch?

Off2Class is a toolkit for ESL teachers. We combine teacher-led ESL learning content with a student management system. Part content, part software, 100% built for ESL teachers.

Who is your ideal user?

We started by working with freelance ESL teachers tutoring both online and in-person. We’re now also working with classroom ESL teachers and languages institutes. We love working with both user types buVideo_Tutorials_-_Off2Classt my personal favourite are our freelance teacher users. There is a ‘can do’ attitude that a lot of freelance ESL teachers possess making them fun customers to work with!

Why did you build Off2Class?

Off2Class Old WayMy business partner, James Heywood, had ventured into online ESL teaching and was frustrated that there was a lack of high-quality, teacher-led ESL content that was properly animated for an online classroom. We soon realized that it wasn’t just online ESL teachers that were frustrated, but lots of teachers were now teaching on screens and were finding it hard to access ESL content that was suitable for these new environments.

How many lessons do you have in Off2Class?

Our ESL Lesson Plan Library contains over 500 lessons and we add to the library every month. Our latest additions include our Listening Activities (which contain audio recordings of graded, authentic native English) and our Business English series.Off2Class resources

Is there a particular pedagogical paradigm or learning theory on which the lessons are based?

Our philosophy has always been to complement ESL teachers. Our lessons are designed to be teacher-led (i.e. taught and adapted live) and follow the communicative approach. We’ve paired our content with some powerful annotation tools and an online whiteboard that teachers can use to build on our lessons as they teach.

Do you suggest a specific pathway through the materials?

Off2Class-PlacementTest-2We recommend that teachers have their students sit our ESL placement test. For every student that sits the test, we will produce their gap analysis and individual learning plan which outlines a pathway to target their language challenges and fossilized errors using our materials.

Can teachers author their own lessons or customise the lessons in Off2Class?

Off2Class-Teacher-Logo-2Coming very soon! We’re in final testing of our lesson editor which will allow teachers to customize our lessons. We realize that every student is different and that teachers know their students best. We’re excited to release this next stage of customization!

Off2Class looks very much like a product aimed at teachers, so how have catered to what students need?

We believe that for meaningful secondary language acquisition (for 90% of learners) students require a teacher. There just aren’t that many students out there that can maintain enough motivation to learn a language entirely through self-study. By supplying teachers with the right, adaptive resources to guide their students through the language acquisition journey, we believe that we will be catering to what students need.Off2Class-library

Does Off2Class work on mobile devices such as tablets?

Absolutely, we work on any device or screen. We’ve gone to great lengths to make sure we can cater to any digital learning environment. Students can access their learning portals on any internet-connected device including mobiles and tablets. For online lessons we integrate with all major videoconferencing systems and for classroom teaching we are projected using IWBs, TV screens or projectors. We have many teachers that frequently use Off2Class in different environments, e.g. one day for an in-person tutorial on a tablet and the next day for a classroom session on a projector.

Do you use the data from Off2Class to improve or rework your materials?

Off2Class-newYes, we are constantly updating our content based on teacher feedback. Teachers can leave us feedback from within the lesson content itself. There’s a big ‘Give Us Feedback’ button at the bottom of our classroom which means teachers can give us commentary right when they think of it but without having to disrupt a lesson. We also prioritize our content releases based on data showing us which lessons are being used the most.

How do you plan to develop Off2Class in the future?

We’ve recently taken steps to increase the level of customization features on Off2Class and the teacher feedback has been tremendous. So most of our plans for development will follow this course – increasing opportunities for teachers to customize Off2Class so it better matches their own teaching style and preferences.

Off2class-AvatarProfilePic-01-Colour-KrisKris is in charge of customer satisfaction for Off2Class. In this role he gets to work with a variety of ESL educators teaching in both freelance and classroom environments. Kris launched Off2Class with his business partner James Heywood, who was frustrated that he couldn’t find any good, teacher-led digital content for his online and in-person ESL tutorials.