Tag Archives: webtools

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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